Idris Elba says ‘we must not pull ourselves backwards’ as BBC diversity chief claims Luther isn’t an ‘authentic’ Black lead

Isobel Lewis
·2-min read

Idris Elba has appeared to respond to comments made by the BBC’s diversity chief claiming that Luther wasn’t “authentic”.

On Wednesday (14 April), Miranda Wayland made headlines after criticising the BBC crime drama, which ran for five series from 2010 to 2019.

“When it first came out everybody loved the fact that Idris Elba was in there – a really strong, Black character lead,” she said. “But after you got into the second series you got kind of like, OK, he doesn’t have any Black friends, he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food, this doesn’t feel authentic.”

Wayland’s comments were met with criticism online, with some social media users claiming that she was leaning on “stereotypes”.

On Wednesday night, Elba spoke out for the first time following her comments, sharing a quote to Instagram Stories that he attributed to himself.

“We must not pull ourselves backwards, only push ourselves forwards. IE,” he wrote.

In response to Wayland’s original comments, a spokesperson for the BBC told The Independent: “Luther is a multi-award winning crime drama series and the iconic role of DCI John Luther has become one of TV’s most powerful detective characters of which we are tremendously proud.

Idris Elba/Instagram
Idris Elba/Instagram

“The BBC is committed to its continued investment in diversity and recent BBC One dramas I May Destroy You and Small Axe are testament to that. Of course people can have open discussions about our shows but that doesn’t mean it’s a statement of policy.”

John Luther was not originally written as a Black character, with showrunner Neil Cross previously saying: “I have no knowledge or expertise or right to try to tackle in some way the experience of being a Black man in modern Britain.

“It would have been an act of tremendous arrogance for me to try to write a Black character. We would have ended up with a slightly embarrassed, ignorant, middle-class, white writer’s idea of a Black character.”

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