UK Directors of Color Also Seeking Better Opportunities in the USA

Alrick Riley

By Sergio, Shadow and Act We all are well aware of the alleged “Great Black British Actor Invasion” here in the U.S., with UK born and trained actors such as David Oyelowo, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, Lenny James, Naomi Harris, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and David Harewood among many others, winning prominent supporting and leading roles in film and TV projects in Hollywood.

When asked why each of them made the move west, they’ve been all very blunt with their replies, saying that it was simply a case of there being more acting opportunities for black actors and actors of color in the USA, than in their home country. (Though there are always roles in those endless nostalgic British period colonialist dramas set in India or Africa when “the never set foot on the British Empire” sort of stuff).

But now, according to a recent article in the London Independent (here), even black and other directors of color are making the move to the U.S. for the same reason – the lack of opportunities in the U.K.

Director Alrick Riley (pictured above) – who has credits on popular U.K. shows as “Death in Paradise” and “MI-5” – made the move to the US in 2014 to further his career, and has, to date, directed numerous episodes of long running hit shows such as “Legends,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “CSI,” “Person of Interest” and “Criminal Minds.”

Menhaj Huda, whose credits include “EastEnders” – which has been on British television since the mid-80’s – and “Coronation Street” – which first premiered in the UK in 1960 – has also decided to make the move because, as he says in the article: “This year I decided to stop banging my head against a brick wall and try America. I have an agent and manager and we are going to start the process in LA.”

Another director, Udayan Prasad, who started working on television thirty years ago, and who often finds himself the only director of color working on a TV series, adds that “… nothing seems to have changed […] What’s personally depressing is that we have not moved on at all since I entered the industry in the 1980s. I’m completely at a loss as to why that should be.”

According to British comedian and actor Lenny Henry, of the 129 directors who worked on hour-long British dramas during the year, 2015, only 21 were women, two were black, and two were Asian.

The reason for this lack of diversity is simple, according to film director Arun Kumar who states: “The higher echelons of the UK television industry, especially drama and high-end documentary are pretty much exclusively white.” He does feel that there is “greater diversity” among executive decision makers here in the States.

And yet, ironically, many black filmmakers here in the USA often complain about the lack of diversity among decision makers in Hollywood; so who is right?

What do you say?

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