RENOWNED actor David Oyelowo, who was nominated for a Golden Globe, felt “pushed out of the UK” because of the glass ceiling, he has admitted.
The British star, who left for Los Angeles to persue his dreams eight years ago, told a riveted audience how he’d carved a career for himself at the launch of a report into ethnic minorities in the creative industries.
Oyelowo recently starred as Martin Luther King Jr in Selma which earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Speaking in a packed theatre at the BFI in London, he said: “I felt pushed out of the UK because of the glass ceiling I could feel my head bobbing against. “I could see that actors, my peers, those who had a similar trajectory to me, were going on to do movies, to play leads.
“I started to feel I was going to go round in circles. Nice TV, back to the theatre, nice TV. But I wasn’t going to be James McAvoy or Benedict Cumberbatch.”
As soon as he began to taste success in the States, Oyelowo started being offered roles in the UK. He added: “I thought: ‘Wow, I have to leave and have success elsewhere in order for my ability to be validated’.”
The actor, who made his name on stage as Henry VI for the Royal Shakespeare Company and on television in BBC One’s Spooks, said it was harder for Asian and black actors to succeed in the industry.
“As a black person, unfortunately you have to work twice as hard to get half as far. That means I have to work four times as hard as Benedict, who is a very good friend of mine, a hard worker and a talented actor.”
Each year, he said British black and Asian actors came to his LA home and expressed their frustration at the situation. He added: “Things are worse now than they were when I was doing Spooks and Henry VI. The opportunities are not there.”
The father-of-two said the curators of culture needed to reflect the diverse make-up of Britain for things to move forward. He has recently been working on The Queen of Katwe, directed by Mira Nair, a Disney film in which he plays a chess coach opposite Lupita Nyong’o.
The report by the Creative Industries Federation and the Mobo Organisation stated that black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people hold just 11 per cent of jobs in the UK sector.
It said the figure should be 17.8 per cent if it were reflective of the population because nearly a third of the roles are in London, where 40 per cent of the workforce is an ethnic minority.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey insisted those in charge across the creative industries should pay attention. He said: “It is important to talk about this issue but it is important to do things and make a difference.”