Idris Elba says he wants to see more gay characters on TV who aren’t “stereotypes”.
The Luther actor spoke to MPs at a Parliamentary event today, addressing the lack of diversity in broadcasting.
The actor, who first landed a breakout role in US drama The Wire, has built his career up over many years – but says he hit a “glass ceiling” because of his race.
He explained: “I knew I wasn’t going to land a lead role… I knew there wasn’t enough imagination in the industry for me to be seen as a lead.
“In other words, if I wanted to star in a British drama like Luther, then I’d have to go to a country like America.
“Because I never saw myself on TV, I stopped watching TV. Instead I decided to just go out and become TV.”
He added: “When you don’t reflect the real world, too much talent gets trashed. Thrown on the scrapheap. Talent is everywhere, opportunity isn’t. And talent can’t reach opportunity.”
“I used to fit tyres in Forest Gate and now I make movies in Hollywood – the difference between the two is opportunity.”
He continued: “In a funny way, broadcasting needs a Magna Carta. We need to start doing things more fairly. It’s not so much a peace treaty as an opportunity treaty.
“We need to count up what everybody has, see the lay of the land, and see who has which careers in TV.
“Who makes TV? Who’s allowed on TV? And when they get the opportunity, which roles do they play, off and on screen?
“Are black people normally playing petty criminals? Are women always the love interest or talking about men?
“Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people ever seen at all?
“Do some people have their careers taken away on a whim? Is their talent unfairly ignored?”
He joked: “The TV world helps shape our real world, but when we look out of the window, none of us really live on Downton Abbey.”
His comments come after Channel 4 last year implemented tough new diversity quotas both for on-screen and off-screen talent.
The broadcaster wants 6% of staff and talent to identify as LGBT by 2020, with targets for 6% people with disabilities and 20% black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME).
Labour MP Jess Phillips, a strong feminist voice within Parliament, seemed pretty happy with the event, tweeting Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt as she sat next to Elba.
There has previously been speculation that Luther star Idris Elba could take up the role of James Bond – becoming the first black actor to take on the role.