David Oyelowo Brands Reaction To Benedict Cumberbatch's 'Coloured' Gaffe 'Ridiculous'


David Oyelowo has rallied to the aid of Benedict Cumberbatch, following a gaffe during an interview on US radio in which he referred to black actors using the outmoded term ‘coloured’.

Oyelowo was collared while at the UK premiere ‘Selma’, the movie in which he plays civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

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“I think it’s ridiculous,” Oyelowo told Radio 1’s Newsbeat.

“When you look at what he was actually saying it’s clear that he’s a huge supporter of black performers.

“To attack him for a term, as opposed to what he was actually saying, I think is very disingenuous and is indicative of the age we live in where people are looking for sound bites as opposed to substance.”

He added that he had contacted Cumberbatch to offer his support, after the actor made a public apology for using the term.

“I reached out to him in support and said I think it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Asked if he felt Hollywood has an issue with diversity, Oyelowo said ‘absolutely’.

“You can see that in the fact every time a film of this size and stature comes up,” he added. “We’re talking about diversity again and that’s because there isn’t enough of it.

“Excellence is the best weapon against prejudice. I intend to be part of the solution and not the problem. You’ve just got to keep on banging out good performances.


“[Cumberbatch is] a brilliant actor, he gives a brilliant performance in Imitation Game and, like I say, it’s just a diversion from what we should be talking about, which is that astounding performance.”

He added: “In America we use the term ‘people of colour’. Is that a million miles different than saying coloured? I know it’s an outdated term but... he was clearly doing something that I think was pretty beautiful.”

During an interview with PBS host Tavis Smiley, he said: “I think as far as coloured actors go, it gets really different in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the US] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change,” he said.

“Something’s gone wrong, we’re not representative enough in our culture of different races and that really does need to step up a pace.”

Many objected to his use of the term, leading to a later apology.

“I’m devastated to have caused offence by using this outmoded terminology,” he said. “I offer my sincere apologies. I make no excuse for my being an idiot and know the damage is done.

“I can only hope this incident will highlight the need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive.

“The most shaming aspect of this for me is that I was talking about racial inequality in the performing arts in the UK and the need for rapid improvements in our industry when I used the term.

“I feel the complete fool I am and while I am sorry to have offended people and to learn from my mistakes in such a public manner please be assured I have.

“I apologise again to anyone who I offended for this thoughtless use of inappropriate language about an issue which affects friends of mine and which I care about deeply.”

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Image credits: PA/Paramount