Idris Elba Shares More Thoughts On Backlash Over Not Calling Himself A Black Actor

Idris Elba on Luther
(Image credit: BBC)

Idris Elba has seen some highs and lows in recent weeks. He's been celebrating the impending release of the highly anticipated Luther: The Fallen Sun. But on the flip side, he’s experienced online backlash for revealing that he doesn't call himself a “Black actor” anymore. Since then, Elba has set the record straight by clarifying he didn’t want to be defined by his race. Now, the British actor is sharing more thoughts on the backlash surrounding his polarizing comments.

The A-lister seemed to have more to get off his chest in regard to the controversy while speaking with The Guardian. Idris Elba opened up about feeling scrutinized long before he made his recent statements. He conveyed that this happened around the time that U.S. audiences found out he was British -- and not American -- after watching him in his breakthrough role as Stringer Bell on HBO’s The Wire. And before he starred on Luther, he saw “a glass ceiling coming," since he was being typecast due to his desirability -- and not his talent. The Suicide Squad star dispelled public perception of him by saying he lives “a quite sheltered life.” He said about dealing with public scrutiny at this phase in his career:

Contrary to popular belief, I live a quite sheltered life. I feel as I get older – I’m 50 now – we all have fears of saying too much, oversharing and whatnot. And in this day and age, it’s really difficult to have an opinion if you’re in the public eye because it gets overly scrutinised, taken out of context, thrown into some sort of bullshit, zeitgeisty social media argument.

It seems he just wants to express his thoughts without worrying about others’ opinions. Multiple celebrities have faced online backlash over seemingly candid comments. Of course, the multi-tainer entered this business because he wanted to be judged by his talent, not his race. However, over the years, he's talked about being encouraged by the presence of Black characters on the big screen. So make no mistake, he’s still proud of who he is as well as the rising tide in Hollywood.

Idris Elba felt much of the discourse was stirred up by social media, and not for a meaningful conversation. The showbiz staple stood by his words, as he questioned those who felt he was denying his Blackness. He said to the online publication:

Me saying I don’t like to call myself a Black actor is my prerogative. That’s me, not you. So for you to turn around and say to me, I’m ‘denying my Blackness’. On what grounds? Did you hear that? Where am I denying it? And what for? It’s just stupid. Whatever.

The Sonic the Hedgehog 2 alum, who is the son of two African immigrants, is clearly over others questioning his commitment to the African diaspora. One gets the feeling that he just wants to work and live his life without having to watch every word he says.

Idris Elba’s comments come at a time where Black actors are thriving in Hollywood. Michael B. Jordan and Jonathan Majors are having a moment with box office successes like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania. The two also appear together in Creed III, which has received great reviews from critics. His fellow Brits -- like John Boyega, Damson Idris, and Regé-Jean Page -- are also experiencing success and have high-profile blockbuster movies lined up. It's fair to assume that Elba is rooting for his colleagues and isn't going to let the noise distort how he views them or himself.

Catch Idris Elba in Luther: The Fallen Sun, which is set to be released on March 10, and you'll need a Netflix subscription if you want to check it out. After that, he has a few film and TV projects lined up for 2023 and 2024. In the meantime, check out our schedule of 2023 new movie releases for info on other upcoming films that feature top-notch Black talent.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).