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):
Although the Denzel Washington-headlined revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic play did not garner its lead an award tonight, “A Raisin in the Sun” fared quite well in several other categories, winning three Tonys overall, for Best Director (Kenny Leon), Best Featured Actress in a Play (Sophie Okonedo) and Best Revival of a Play.
Also of major note was Audra McDonald‘s Best Lead Actress in a Play win for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” Not only did she earn her record sixth Tony (surpassing Angela Lansberry and Julie Harris at five each), she also became the only actor to ever win a Tony in all four acting categories.
The Tony Nominations for 2014 were announced this morning, and the current production of the Lorraine Hansberry classic, A Raisin In The Sun, earned four, including Best Revival of A Play. Raisin‘s LaTanya Richardson Jackson was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, and Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni Rose both were nominated in the Featured Actress category for their outstanding work in the production.
Denzel Washington, who anchors the play by reviving the Walter Younger role that garnered Sidney Poitier a Tony nomination in the original Broadway production, was overlooked in the Leading Actor category.
The spark of rebellion, the kind that makes a man stand up and fight, has almost been extinguished in Walter Lee Younger. As portrayed by Denzel Washington in Kenny Leon’s disarmingly relaxed revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun — which opened on Thursday night at the Ethel Barrymore Theater — Walter appears worn down, worn out and about ready to crawl into bed for good. Frankly, he looks a whole lot older than you probably remember him.
That’s partly because, at 59, Mr. Washington, the much laureled movie star, is about a quarter of a century older than the character he is playing, at least as written. (This production bumps Walter’s age up to 40 from 35.) But it’s also because, as this production of Raisin makes clearer than any I’ve seen before, Walter inhabits a world that ages men like him fast.
Listen to how his mama, Lena (LaTanya Richardson Jackson), describes her late husband’s existence: “I seen him, night after night, come in, and look at that rug, and then look at me, the red showing in his eyes, the veins moving in his head. I seen him grow thin and old before he was 40, working and working like somebody’s horse.”
In this engrossingly acted version of Hansberry’s epochal 1959 portrait of an African-American family, Walter is all too clearly his father’s son. Lena may tell him, shaking her head, that he is “something new, boy.” But you know that her great fear is that he is not. Small wonder she shows such smothering protectiveness to Walter’s 11-year-old son, Travis (Bryce Clyde Jenkins).
A claustrophobic fatigue pervades the cramped, South Side Chicago apartment in which A Raisin in the Sun is set. And despite its often easygoing tone, a happy ending feels far from guaranteed. As designed by Mark Thompson, the Youngers’ living room cum kitchen is a narrow corridor that keeps its three generations of inhabitants in close, erosive proximity.
The production begins with a searing vision of bone-weariness. Ruth Younger (Sophie Okonedo), Walter’s wife, stands frozen center stage in a bathrobe, amid sallow morning light. Her face is harrowed, and her arms are braced against the kitchen counter in what is almost a crucifix position. She is trying to find the strength to get through another day.
Mr. Leon relaxes that initial tautness for the scene that follows, in which the Youngers — who also include Walter’s sister, Beneatha (a first-rate Anika Noni Rose), a pre-med student — go through their usual morning rituals. And the play as a whole has a genial, conversational quality; it always holds you, but without trying to shake you.
Still, that opening scene strikes a note that will resonate. Exhaustion is pulling at the Youngers like a dangerous force of gravity. As Hansberry puts it in her stage directions, “Weariness has, in fact, won in this room.”
Denzel Washington will star opposite Diahann Carroll in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s classic A Raisin In The Sun. Previews begin March 8, 2014, with opening night on April 3, 2014 at the Barrymore Theatre where the original production opened 55 years ago. Set on Chicago’s South Side, A Raisin In The Sun revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee (Washington), his wife Ruth (Sophie Okonedo), his sister Beneatha (Anika Noni Rose), his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama (Carroll). Rounding out the cast are Stephen Tyrone Williams, Jason Dirden, and Stephen McKinley Henderson. Washington won a Best Actor Tony for his performance in 2010′s Fences. The Kenny Leon-directed A Raisin In The Sun is a limited engagement, running 14 weeks only through June 15, 2014. Washington currently can be seen in Universal’s action thriller 2 Guns with Mark Wahlberg which opens today.
ARISE Magazine, Africa’s “first and foremost” fashion glossy, has released its first ever list of 100 dynamic women across the diaspora. Honoring women from business, government, entertainment, philanthropy, and fashion, ARISE’s list of 100 Dynamic women reads like a who’s who of prominent women from around the globe.
The inaugural honorees include Nkosazana DlaminiZuma, the chairwoman of the African Union; philanthropist Melinda Gates; media mogul Oprah Winfrey; singer and campaigner Angélique Kidjo; actress Sophie Okonedo; Diezani Alison-Madueke, Minister of Paterolem Reserves in Nigeria; and many more.
Pick up the latest issue of ARISE or head on over to their website to read the entire list of their 100 Dynamic women of 2012.