Boyega shared a message on Twitter after an interview with Elba revealed he no longer referred to himself as “a Black actor” and did not like being put in a box. Elba made the statement during an interview with Esquire UK.
“I’m not any more Black because I’m in a white area, or more Black because I’m in a Black area. I’m Black. And that skin stays with me no matter where I go, every day, through Black areas with white people in it, or white areas with Black people in it. I’m the same Black,” he said. “As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be. I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over.”
After an account with the Twitter handle @simsimmaaz agreed with Elba and wrote, “He’s not wrong lmao. Many Black and POC actors have talked about being typecasted into stereotypical roles because of their race,” Boyega responded and said that the focus should be on those doing the typecasting.
“I think we should fixate on who is typecasting and putting actors in boxes because of this. Not on making weird adjustments for them,” he wrote. “We continuously focus on what we have to do so they don’t do this or that. Very worrying. We BLACK and that’s that.”
Elba’s father is from Sierra Leone and his mother is from Ghana. The British actor from the East London council estate followed his dreams and moved to New York to become an actor in the 1990s. Elba also discussed his upbringing in the Esquire article and noted that both Black and white kids from his old neighborhood may be inspired to follow their dreams as he has done.
“Of course, I’m a member of the Black community,” said Elba. “You say a prominent one. But when I go to America, I’m a prominent member of the British community. ‘Oh, UK’s in the house!’ I accept that it is part of my journey to be aware that, in many cases, I might be the first to look like me to do a certain thing. And that’s good, to leave as part of my legacy. So that other people, Black kids, but also white kids growing up in the circumstances I grew up in, are able to see there was a kid who came from Canning Town who ended up doing what I do. It can be done.”
Elba went on to say that he became an actor because it seemed like a great profession, not because he wanted to be the first Black actor to do certain things.
“I didn’t become an actor because I didn’t see Black people doing it and I wanted to change that. I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it,” said Elba. “As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that. Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first Black. I’m the first Idris.”
One Twitter user agreed with Boyega and wrote, “We always shape-shifting to avoid white supremacy. Tired of it.”
One user wrote, “And try as he might, that ‘box’ ain’t going anywhere.”
Another user replied, “John boyega is like call me black actor or whatever, I’m black and I ain’t adjusting for nobody.”