Whitney Houston’s upcoming biopic ‘I Wanna Dance Somebody’ stars BAFTA-winning actress Naomi Ackie as the legendary singer, meaning the debate over black British actors taking roles away from American actors doesn’t will surely resurface. The debate erupted 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 this movie would have been like with an American brother who really feels that way,” Jackson said.
In a new interview on “The Shop” (via The Root), Idris Elba has spoken out against the claim that black British actors take roles from American actors. Naomi Ackie’s role in “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” served as a springboard for 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 against an English woman,” Elba said. “How does being English make you less black? To me, that defines how unintelligent the argument is. No disrespect to anyone with that sentiment, it is what it is.
Elba continued, “The thing 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 between us, we want to point fingers because we come from a conditioning that makes people just make sure “where are you from?” and ‘are you authentic where you come from? How black are you? And it goes back to the caste system and it’s boring to me, really boring.
“My grandfather fought in World War II for this country, the United States. [He] is from Kansas City,” Elba concluded. “I come to this country and someone says ‘you’re not American’ and I’m like ‘huh?’ How dare you. It’s acting. Cultural appropriation, no. It’s definitely something we should pay attention to. But in acting, you should be allowed to act.
Elba recently returned to the big screen in “Beast,” which is now playing in theaters nationwide.