The actors appear in Guerrilla, about the Black Power Movement in Seventies London, and Elba was also an executive producer.
Speaking to the Standard he said: “The great thing about Guerrilla is that Idris, along with [co-director] John Ridley, wanted to have lots of black faces represented in front of the screen. But behind the scenes from runners to costumes it was also littered full of people of colour. It felt unlike any production I’ve worked on before.”
The series has been accused of under representing black women – something Mays disputes.
“Idris really gave opportunities to young black women who will now go forward and work in the industry,” he said. “He’s started their careers for them and I commend him for that.
“[The industry] is predominantly white. Young black actors in this country don’t get a fair crack at the whip and they also don’t get equal opportunities which is why you find so many of these actors, Idris was one of them, getting their breaks in America.”
Essex-born Mays, who was brought up by his electrician father and bank cashier mother, also called for a better representation of the working class on screen.
He said: “My grievance is we need to have authentic working class writers and directors coming through that will enable us to tell stories about the underclass. Mike Leigh and Ken Roach are veterans of that, but they won’t be around forever. There might be a sea change happening. It’s a hotbed of political change at the moment.”
Mays said the Grenfell Tower fire was a prime example of “the poor people of this country being forgotten”.
He said: “There’s an underlying anger that people are starting to feel now. That’s why you’ve got all of these people voting for Labour, I know I certainly did, because there is a complete imbalance [and] people feel hopeless.”
Guerrilla will be available on DVD and Blu-ray from June 19.