Idris Elba used his BAFTAs Special Award acceptance speech to ask people to pay it backwards and make more opportunities for others.
After opening the speech by thanking his family, the actor said, “When I first got this I was like ‘wow, it’s a bit early for a lifetime achievement award.’ I was wrong. It’s a special award and it is special and I appreciate it.”
— BAFTA (@BAFTA) July 31, 2020
“I don’t believe that I’m very special,” he continued. “I believe that what I’ve been given is an opportunity. What I’ve done is taken my opportunity and handed it backwards and handed it to other people who need that opportunity. That is something that I didn’t plan to do, it’s just a natural feeling. It’s a natural reaction.”
Elba explained how, growing in East London, he was taught to treat people with respect because “everyone comes from the same cloth.”
“In the world of film and television, nothing is different in that sense,” Elba went on. “In other words, no one is different, so me giving an opportunity to someone else is just part of my inheritance, part of my upbringing.”
Encouraging others to pay it back in the same way, he added, “Maybe someday I might get an acting award, but until that day I’m going to make more opportunity for more actors, more writers and more people to come and speak and tell their story.”
The “Luther” star is being awarded the BAFTA Special Award for television in the virtual BAFTA TV awards ceremony on July 31.
It is one of the academy’s highest honours, with previous recipients including Clare Balding, Cilia Black, Sir Lenny Henry and John Motson.
Elba is being recognized for his continued support of diversity and providing opportunities for new talent in the industry, along with his exceptional career.
“It’s been a mission of mine to provide opportunity and access to emerging talent from diverse backgrounds in this industry, which is the same opportunity I received many years ago from open-minded and diversity conscious casting,” said Elba on the news. “I thank BAFTA for recognising myself and others who are dedicated to the same cause, as these are all necessary steps towards helping to shift the awareness and understanding of the diversity gap in entertainment.”
The star’s breakout role was playing the business-savvy Stringer Bell in “The Wire”, which gained an NAACP Image Award 2010 Nomination. His role on the BBC miniseries “Luther” also brought acclaim to Elba in the form of a Golden Globe Award, SAG Award, and four Primetime Emmy nominations.
Elba’s production company, Green Door Pictures, was founded in 2013 to continue in his commitment to providing opportunities for diverse talent and promote inclusivity.
He returned to “Luther” last year in January for a fifth season and his new movie “Concrete Cowboys” is set to premiere in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.