Just as #OscarsSoWhite has become a cause cé·lè·bre here in the USA primarily, across the pond, in the UK, the picture for actors and directors of color isn’t exactly rosy either. By now, I think we’re all familiar with the struggles of black talents in the UK, with the likes of Lenny Henry, Adrian Lester, Sophie Okonedo, David Oyelowo, and others vocalizing their frustrations with the lack of opportunity for black actors in the UK, and their having to go elsewhere (the USA specifically) to find work – a “trend” that many on this side of the pond frown upon, arguing that it effectively means that there’s even more competition for a limited number of opportunities.
Now “Luther” star Idris Elba is also speaking out, although he’s taken his protest (if you will) all the way to the UK parliament, where he formally spoke to the members Monday, on the lack of diversity across British television, and its effects on talented black Brits like himself who are essentially forgotten. In his speech, he accuses the industry’s executives of not living in the real world. He argued that British television is at risk of not properly reflecting society, emphasizing that black actors in the UK are struggling to progress, especially when compared to black actors in the USA.
“People in the TV world often aren’t the same as people in the real world. And there’s an even bigger gap between people who make TV, and people who watch TV. I should know, I live in the TV world. And although there’s a lot of reality TV, TV hasn’t caught up with reality,” Elba said, adding: “Change is coming, but it’s taking its sweet time.”
Watch some of his speech below (to read the full speech, Channel 4 transcribed it in its entirety here):
British actors Idris Elba and David Oyelowo received a high honor from their queen.
On Tuesday (December 29), both actors made Queen Elizabeth’s annual New Year’s honor list. Elba, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his work in the Netflix original film “Beasts of No Nation” and BBC’s “Luther”, was humbled by the honor.
“Awards and honors come in all shapes and sizes and all as significant as the other. But this is beyond special as it comes from Queen and country, and I couldn’t be more proud for receiving this right now. What a year. On me head son!” Elba said in a statement.
Oyelowo was also honored for his services to drama, found the honor to be heartfelt. Long before his role as Dr. Martin Luther King in the Ava DuVernay directed film “Selma”, an 18-year-old Oyelowo received a grant from Prince Charles’ charity the Prince’s Trust, which allowed him to join a youth theater production his family couldn’t afford.
“To be honored by the Queen in this way having been aided by her son’s charity feels like a beautiful full-circle moment.”
BBC America has finally the much-anticipated return date for “Luther” starring Idris Elba – a one-night 3-hour special event on Thursday, December 17, 9pm ET.
I would say that this puts it head-to-head with Shonda Rhimes night on ABC (“Scandal” at 9pm and “How to get Away With Murder” at 10pm); but both shows should be on by December 17, leaving “Luther” with likely little competition that night.
Here’s the story breakdown for those who haven’t kept up with the series, courtesy of the press release: Struggling to cope with his own demons after losing so much, it seemed normalcy would always elude the emotionally impulsive detective. Teflon tough, even the strongest couldn’t endure what Luther has seen and been through. Hunting London’s most depraved criminals forced him to tap into the dark recesses of his mind, revealing sides of himself that would horrify most. The heartbreaking loss of his wife to a brutal murderer and his inner-circle of colleagues turning on him in a witch hunt weren’t enough to keep him away from the job. But watching his most trusted colleague and friend, Detective Sergeant Justin Ripley, die in his arms after getting caught in the crossfires of a case, finally pushed him over the slippery slope he’s always towed. A forbidden connection with serial-killer, Alice Morgan, offered him a somewhat skewed version of a happy ending and he took it.
And here’s what’s coming in the December 17 special: This time we find Luther on a leave of absence from the police force, laying low in a rundown cottage. A visit from colleagues, Detective Chief Inspector Theo Bloom and Detective Sergeant Emma Lane, brings a shocking piece of news that draws him back to London in search of the truth. At the same time, a gruesome cannibalistic serial killer has struck the city, eating body parts as he goes. With a trail of clues leading from one crime scene to the next, Detective Superintendent Unit Martin Schenk and his team must work out the twisted logic that connects each victim. But this murdering mastermind is more than a match for Schenk’s police, outsmarting them at every step. It’s not long before Luther makes his triumphant return to the Bullpen, determined to capture the killer before another mutilated body joins the mounting pile. But he’s dogged at every turn by ghosts from his past. Isolated and volatile, it will take every fiber of Luther’s being to keep it together.
“I think there were bigger challenges when he lost his wife and his best friend,” Elba says in a press statement. “That was a huge pinnacle and something that it took him a long time to get over. And in this [special] there is something similar that happens to him that is definitely traumatic. I think Luther goes back just because he can’t stay away from it for too long. Ultimately, because he’s a protector, [he] just wants to be able to fix what he can see other people won’t be able to…”
Idris Elba has garnered both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his role as DCI John Luther, with a Golden Globe win in 2013.
Written and created by Neil Cross and directed by Sam Miller, the “Luther” special also stars Laura Haddock as Megan Cantor, a mysterious woman from Luther’s past, John Heffernan as the sadistic cannibal Steven Rose, Patrick Malahide as George Cornelius, an old school gangster, and Michael Smiley returning as computer whiz Benny Silver.
Kunbi Tinuoye, former broadcast journalist and correspondent for the BBC, MSNBC and TheGrio.com, and current on-air contributor to Arise News’ business show Xchange, has recently launched UrbanGeekz.com, a groundbreaking digital news platform dedicated to African-Americans and other underrepresented minorities in technology, science and business. The site offers reviews, interviews, commentary, and original video on startups, geek gadgets, social media, scientific advancements, entrepreneurship and insight into Silicon Valley and the global technology industry. The cutting-edge online publication also provides authoritative lifestyle and entertainment content.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, UrbanGeekz.com, live only since February 9th of this year, has already partnered with telecom giant AT&T and Black Enterprise Magazine to provide content to and about the underserved communities in the tech space. The website also has created a much-needed outlet for dialogue on the most pressing and relevant issues in STEM-related fields: conversations surrounding the preparedness of students to pursue STEM careers, the lack of diversity in the STEM workforce and challenges facing minorities in the tech start-up scene.
Tinuoye, whose parents immigrated to the United Kingdom from Nigeria, was born, raised and educated in London. She graduated from Cambridge University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social and Political Sciences and later received a post-graduate diploma in print journalism. She is also an NCTJ qualified UK professional journalist.
Tinuoye began her career writing for the prestigious London newspaper, the Evening Standard. After stints there and with the BBC, she immigrated to the United States, settling in Atlanta and working for TheGrio.com and MSNBC as a journalist and on-air contributor.
Good Black News recently caught up with Tinuoye and got a chance to talk to this ambitious and intelligent entrepreneur about her journey, why she started UrbanGeekz, and her visions for African-Americans in tech in the near future:
Good Black News: What initially attracted you to journalism?
Kunbi Tinuoye: I’m a communicator – that’s just the core of my personality – I’m a people person. I’ve worked across most platforms, from television to print journalism. I enjoy every aspect of the media industry.
Which aspect of journalism do you like the most?
I started as a writer. Knowing how to write and tell a story is really the core. I say to aspiring journalists, “Make sure you learn how to write,” because once you can put together a well-crafted sentence and get to the crux of a story, then you’ve the ability to be a good journalist.
What made you decide to leave the United Kingdom for the United States?
Me and my husband came on holiday to Atlanta about seven years ago and we basically fell in love with the States. One of my husband’s friends relocated here and was living a comfortable life. Seeing how black professionals live in America, particularly in Atlanta, where you have the ability to work your way up the corporate ladder… I think it was that, the lifestyle and I thought there would be more opportunities for me here.
Do you prefer it here in America?
I absolutely love Atlanta. I feel like I found home. It feels like where I’m meant to be.
Do you have a different perspective on black issues in America being from a different country?
I probably do have a different perspective. For me, coming as an immigrant I feel that, and maybe specifically to Atlanta, which I think is a great place for black professionals, for me there seems to be a phenomenal amount of opportunity, but that’s from my perspective. I know race is a huge issue in America, I’m very aware of that – in London there’s racism as well – maybe at a slightly different level, but of course I’m aware of injustice and all of the issues going on, but at the same time I see America as the land of opportunity – that’s my perspective.
Your experience has spanned three countries – Nigeria through your parents, England and the United States. How do you identify?
K: What can I say… being Nigerian is very important to me, so I would identify as a British Nigerian. I’ve been in the States four years, and now it’s like home.
Why did you start UrbanGeekz?
I was at the Grio for close to four years and it was a phenomenal job. But I felt there was a gap in the market. There wasn’t a minority-led news platform tackling issues related to STEM and the technology industry, which as you know is an important space that’s going to become even more significant in the coming years. The other reason that sparked me to launch UrbanGeekz was when the big tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, released their diversity stats and showed dismal numbers of African-Americans and women. I think that and the combination of just thinking we’re not covering these stories was the impetus.
Who do you consider your competition in the digital tech space?
I’ve got a huge vision for UrbanGeekz. I want the platform to compete with the big players like TechCrunch and the African-American and even the Latino digital news outlets as well. They aren’t my competition now because we’ve just started, but I hope to be at the same level further down the line.
What do you see as the near future for blacks and people of color in tech and science?
There’s been so much conversation about this right now. It’s a hot topic. Some of the big firms, including Intel and Apple,have made major announcements within the last year, [earmarking] money for underserved minorities and women. So I feel and I hope that people of color – and I say “people of color” because UrbanGeekz is a multi-cultural website – African-Americans of course, but I do want to include Latino market at some point and even Africans and Afro-Latinos as well – my hope is that particularly with the current discussion, people of color will become more and more involved in STEM and the tech space. Technology is important and when you look at the high-demand jobs of the future, many require STEM or tech skills. Underserved minorities and women need to have this skill set to level the playing field.
Are East Indians and Asians thought of as “people of color” in tech?
They are doing much better in tech. UrbanGeekz is for underrepresented communities in the technology industry.
Do you think there is enough awareness around disparity in the tech industry?
Before those diversity statistics were publicly released there wasn’t too much focus on the giant tech companies. But people like Reverend Jesse Jackson have been vocal and continued to put the spotlight on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. Now the issue is a hot topic. It’s also about what kind of skills and jobs that will be in demand in the future. STEM skills are vital for career progression and the continued growth of the U.S. economy. These companies are the new Fortune 500 companies, the new GM [General Motors] or U.S. Steel.
Further down the line, Tinuoye and UrbanGeekz will be launching the UrbanGeekz 100, an annual list of underrepresented minorities making strides in science and technology. The handpicked list will culminate with an on-site exclusive awards gala honoring these dynamic leaders and influencers of color who have achieved success in their prospective industries.
Tonight, January 26th at 10pm, the BBC rolls out its new super-charged series, Mud, Sweat & Gears… and boy, do they get it right. This is a new breed of car show filled with cheeky humor, high-octane stunts, vehicle transformations and insane challenges… I promise, this show does not disappoint!
The first episode features two brothers from Detroit, Steve Perkins and Todd Perkins, competing against California racers Keith Kramer and Rob Krider. These contestants bring it! Guided by the quick–witted, charismatic hosts, Tom “Wookie” Ford & Jonny Smith, the teams have a limited amount of time to transform their base cars into challenge-themed machines.
The viewer is made part of the experience and you may even find yourself yelling, laughing, wincing and cheering as Mud, Sweat and Gears is a ride you won’t want to stop.
Full disclosure — I did work on this show and while I wouldn’t necessarily peg myself as a car show enthusiast… THIS show is so entertaining…it had me at engine START. I highly recommend Mud, Sweat & Gears.
Pharrell just continues to expand his brand as he has just launched a Billionaire Boys Club mobile shopping app called Spring. BBC has stocked up with a new set of hoodies that you can now purchase from the mobile app. So I’m sure every huge billionaire boys club fan will be downloading the app asap. If you haven’t downloaded Spring , you can get your first look here. Pharrell’s hoodies came just in time for the chilly weather and cold nights, so make sure you cop yourself a few.
The Brit actor who’s just signed to play maverick cop Alex Cross in David Twohy’s Cross, stars in the 6-part BBC mini-series Luther playing another maverick cop (think Cracker meets Prime Suspect meets Wallender). Luther uses the Columbo trick of letting the viewer discover early on who the murderer is – the suspense comes from watching how Luther will catch the murderer. Brit TV reviewers agreed Elba saved a tired formula “pitched somewhere in that territory between fantasy and cliché that commissioning editors find so irresistible,” humphed the Guardian, while the Daily Telegraph said: “Luther lets Elba down”. Poor early reviews impacted ratings. From an audience of 5.8 million (24%) for its first outing, ratings fell to 3.1 million (12.3%) by episode five. Despite falling ratings, the Beeb announced at the Edinburgh TV festival it was commissioning Luther for a couple more two-hour specials. Luther premieres October 17.