The BBC’s diversity chief claimed that Idris Elba’s TV sleuth Luther “isn’t black enough to be real” because “he doesn’t have black friends and doesn’t eat Caribbean food ”.
Miranda Wayland said the blockbuster crime drama, which has been applauded for having a strong black lead character, is only superficially diverse and that business leaders are now looking to portray minority groups more convincingly and more rounded.
Elba, who first rose to prominence across the Atlantic playing the role of Stringer Bell in The Wire, cemented his status as a world star by winning a Golden Globe, among other gongs, for his portrayal of the obsessional John Luther between 2010 and 2019.
However, Ms Wayland told this week’s MIPTV conference that in order to achieve true portrayal, TV chiefs need to ensure that black characters have an environment and culture built around them that fully reflects their backgrounds. .
Idris Elba solidified his status as a world star by winning a Golden Globe, among other gongs, for his portrayal of the obsessive John Luther between 2010 and 2019.
Miranda Wayland said the blockbuster crime drama, which has been applauded for having a strong black lead character, is only superficially diverse and that business leaders are now looking to portray minority groups in a more compelling and rounded manner. .
Who is the BBC’s Chief Diversity Officer?
Last February, Miranda Wayland was appointed the BBC’s Head of Creative Diversity, which the company said was a key step in its commitment to increasing diversity on air.
Its role is to defend its importance in the creative community, “with particular emphasis on production, content and suppliers”.
She reports to former TV presenter June Sarpong, the BBC’s first-ever creative diversity director, and her appointment preceded last summer’s pledge to spend £ 100million of her content budget on diversified programs over three years.
Ms Wayland took on the role after being part of the Company’s Diversity and Workforce Inclusion team, where she was previously Acting Responsible for Workforce Diversity and Inclusion. and human resources partner.
Earlier in her career, she worked for a decade as a Diversity Manager at ITV and also served as Progression Supervisor at Youth Culture Television.
After taking on this role last year, she said: “I am delighted to be working with June to help drive the BBC’s Creative Diversity Strategy, ensuring that the diverse voices and talent in our industry are included and better reflected in our productions and productions. “.
She said: ‘When [Luther] Everyone loved that Idris Elba was there – a very strong black character.
“We all fell in love with him. Who hasn’t, right? But after you get into the second series, you kind of like, OK, he doesn’t have black friends, he doesn’t eat Caribbean food, it doesn’t feel authentic.
Casting more black directors was only part of the solution, she added, but Luther creator and writer Neil Cross expressed surprise, insisting Elba didn’t take the role in the first place only because race was not considered important to the character.
Mr Cross, who is white, said: ‘I have no knowledge, no expertise or no right to try to somehow attack the experience of being a black man. in modern Britain.
“It would have been an act of immense arrogance for me to try to write a black character. We would have ended up with the idea of a slightly embarrassed, ignorant, middle class white writer of a black character.
The company also officially defended the character, insisting he was “extremely proud” after seeing the show attract an audience of 10 million viewers and be sold to 200 territories around the world.
It emerged last year that BBC bosses were discussing diversity in “every conversation” on new programs and that the issue was “non-negotiable”.
The company has said it will spend £ 100million of its content budget on diverse programs over three years, following protests from Black Lives Matter activists this summer.
Shane Allen, who is responsible for commissioning all of the BBC’s scripted comedy programs, says Content Director Charlotte Moore has constantly told staff to remember to consider diversity.
Elba confirmed in August that Luther would be made into a feature film, teasing the upcoming film by stating: “The sky is the limit”
The character has proven extremely popular with fans with his trademark trench coat and unorthodox way of solving crime.
The show explores Luther’s various relationships with the character’s wife Zoe and narcissistic assassin Alice Morgan, but not his experience as a black man in a police force dominated by white colleagues.