The upcoming Whitney Houston biopic “I Wanna Dance Somebody” stars BAFTA-winning actor Naomi Ackie as the legendary singer, which means the debate over Black British actors taking roles away from American actors is bound to resurface. The debate surged in 2017 after Samuel L. Jackson called out Daniel Kaluuya’s casting in “Get Out,” for which the actor earned an Oscar nomination.
“I tend to wonder what that movie would have been with an American brother who really feels that,” Jackson said.
In a new interview on “The Shop” (via The Root), Idris Elba railed against the claim that Black British actors take roles away from American actors. Naomi Ackie’s role in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” served as a launching pad for the discussion. Talk show host Maverick Carter asked Elba about Ackie’s casting, noting that Black American women might criticize a Black British actor playing an American icon.
“You know what I noticed? You said Black women in America versus an English woman,” Elba said. “Like being English makes you less Black? To me, that defines how unintelligent the argument is. No disrespect to anyone who has that feeling, it is what it is.”
Elba continued, “The fact is: we’re all Black. You get a Scottish actor playing an Irish character or an English actor — you don’t hear about a debate. But amongst ourselves we want to point fingers because we come from a conditioning that makes people just make sure ‘where’re you from?’ and ‘are you authentic from where you’re from? How Black are you?’ And it comes down to the caste system and it’s annoying to me, really annoying.”
“My grandfather fought the second World War for this country, the U.S. [He] comes from Kansas City,” Elba concluded. “I come to this country and someone says to me ‘you ain’t American’ and I’m like, ‘huh?’ How dare you. It’s acting. Cultural appropriation, no. That’s definitely something we should pay attention to. But in the acting profession, one should be allowed to play.”
Elba recently returned to the big screen in “Beast,” which is now playing in theaters nationwide.