"I don't want to be the first Black. I'm the first Idris."
Idris Elba is opening up about his experience as a Black man in Hollywood, including the labels that have been thrust upon him -- and the ones he puts on himself.
In an interview with Esquire U.K., the "Luther: The Fallen Sun" star explained why he no longer calls himself "a Black actor."
Idris Elba Reveals Dave Chappelle Used to Buy Weed From HimView Story
"I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box," Elba, 50, said. "We've got to grow. We've got to. Our skin is no more than that: it's just skin."
"Of course, I'm a member of the Black community. You say a prominent one," he added.
"But when I go to America, I'm a prominent member of the British community. 'Oh, UK's in the house!'"
The "Beast" actor stressed that while he understands that he may be the "first" person who looks like him to accomplish something, he said he wants his achievements and talent as an actor to be what stands out.
"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," Elba said. "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.
Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.
"I didn't become an actor because I didn't see Black people doing it and I wanted to change that," he continued. "I did it because I thought that's a great profession and I could do a good job at it. 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."
Elba added, "I don't want to be the first Black. I'm the first Idris."
The "Beast of No Nation" actor also shared his personal thoughts about racism in general, noting that it's "only as powerful as you allow it to be."
"If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other," 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."