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‘He Doesn’t Have Any Black Friends’: Idris Elba’s ‘Luther’ Sparks Huge Debate After Diversity Chief Says the Character Was Not ‘Authentic’ to Black Culture

BBC Diversity Chief Miranda Wayland has some criticisms about why the “Luther” hit crime drama “doesn’t feel authentic.”

On Wednesday, April 15, Wayland spoke about diversity in television during a pre-recorded session for the digital MIPTV conference. She used the show’s lead character, DCI John Luther, who is played by Idris Elba, as an example of how diversity is lacking on the small screen.

Miranda Wayland (Photo: @mirandawtv/Instagram)

“When it first came out everybody loved the fact that Idris Elba was in there — a really strong Black character lead. We all fell in love with him. Who didn’t, right,” she said. “But after you got into about the second series you got kind of like, okay, he doesn’t have any Black friends; he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food. This doesn’t feel authentic.”

Wayland praised television for having “those big landmark shows with those key characters,” but suggested that it’s important to ensure that the “environment” and the “culture” of the Black TV characters is “absolutely reflective” of their background. She continued, “It will be very much about how can we make sure that this program is authentic in terms of the storytelling.”

Elba seemingly responded to all of the commotion on Wednesday. “We must not pull ourselves backwards, only push ourselves forward. IE,” he wrote on his IG story. Many people took that as a sign that Elba was making a clap back toward Wayland.

Idris Elba responds to Miranda Wayland. (Photo: @idriselba/Instagram)

Wayland’s words spread like wildfire on social media and some people were rubbed the wrong way by her critiques, while others understood her position.

Telegraph commentator Calvin Robinson tweeted, “Yesterday, it was implied I’m not black enough because I didn’t have any black friends in my photo. Today, BBC’s diversity chief says @idriselba’s Luther “isn’t black enough” because “he doesn’t have any black friends”. These lazy stereotypes are racist!”

Someone else who shared similar sentiments as Robinson tweeted, “So Idris Elba has been described as “too black” for James Bond and now he’s “not black enough” for Luther. Our people will never be free.”

Someone who seemed to understand Wayland’s point was founder of “The Write Pitch” Britni Danielle. She tweeted, “So, the conversation about BBC’s Luther not being “authentic” is valid. Of course the Daily Mail boiled it down to “not being Black enough,” but what Miranda Wayland is saying is they just plopped this Black man into a world that he seems to exist in alone.”

Another person tweeted, “Unsurprisingly I think the Daily Mail is being very disingenuous here. The woman who said this, who is black herself, was talking about how the show only had surface diversity because Luther is black, but other than that he’s written to be white.”

Wayland was appointed to her new role in 2020, and in that position she “further strengthen[s] the BBC’s commitment to leading the way and delivering even more on-air diversity.” She reports to BBC’s Director of Creative Diversity June Sarpong.

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