Idris Elba On Why He No Longer Describes Himself As A ‘Black Actor’: ‘It’s Just Skin’

Idris Elba
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Actor Idris Elba said that he’s no longer interested in being defined by the color of his skin during an interview published Wednesday.

The 50-year-old British star discussed his feelings on the subject during an interview with Esquire U.K. 

“If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other,” the “Beast” actor told the publication. “As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth.”

While Elba believes that racism is still a problem, he went on to say that obsessing over skin color was limiting for him.

Racism is very real,” the actor continued. “But, from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be. I stopped describing myself as a black actor when I realized it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that. It’s just skin. Rant over.”

When asked if he considered himself a “member of the black community,” Elba replied that his British citizenry is recognized more than his race when in the U.S.

“You say a prominent one,” Elba replied. “But when I go to America, I’m a prominent member of the British community. ‘Oh, U.K.’s in the house!’”

He expanded on his thoughts about the significance of race a bit more, saying, “I might be the first to look like me to do a certain thing. And that’s good to leave as part of my legacy. So that other people, black kids, but also white kids growing up in the circumstances I grew up in, are able to see there was a kid who came from Canning Town who ended up doing what I do. It can be done.”

Ultimately, Elba concluded that race was not a motivating factor for him to succeed in Hollywood.

“I did it because I thought that’s a great profession, and I could do a good job at it,” he said of acting. “As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first black to do this or that. Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first black. I’m the first Idris.”

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