Adrian Lester, star of BBC One’s popular Hustle series, is the latest black British actor to decide that– with regard to acting opportunities in the U.K.– he’s reached the end of the line.
According to the several media outlets, Lester recently gave an interview to Radio Times magazine, wherein he expressed his displeasure with the past and current state of the black actor in his home country.
It’s reported that Lester told Radio Times:
“As an actor you’re constantly trying to guess how valuable you are to the industry. If you’re a woman you’ll put certain negative things against that, be it age or weight.
“As a black actor you do the same – you’ll only see yourself travelling as far as people like you have travelled. And if no-one like you is doing what you’re doing it’s very hard for you to see yourself going further, and you get frustrated.”
“I left Rada in ’89. Apartheid was still going, it was a very different world. When people leave drama school now saying, ‘It’s frustrating, I want to change things,’ I think, ‘Yeah – but, mate, we’ve done a hell of a lot of work!’
Things have changed. There are kids who, when they speak in whatever accent, you can’t tell what colour – even gender – they are until you actually look. That’s what Britain is. It’s impossible to move backwards.
And anybody who is intent on not moving forwards is moving backwards, and that’s an exercise in futility. At the moment a lot of dramas with non-white actors in them feel as though they have to justify that presence. Fine – but the presence is there, justified or not. We’ve got a long way to go, but it’s getting better.”
Anyone looking at Lester’s resume, however, might argue that he’s had a pretty successful career, despite his grievances. In 1998, Lester prominently starred opposite John Travolta and Emma Thompson in the film Primary Colors. In 2003, Lester briefly joined the cast of the popular U.S. sitcom Girlfriends. And it goes without saying that Lester leading the cast of the long-running Hustle was a major achievement for him.
“The iron (in the fire) is quite warm after Hustle,” Lester added.
“It’s been nice knowing that for the past nine years, every summer there’s this great job….
This is the first time the slate is completely clear. I know I’m definitely going over to America. I’ll spend time doing three meetings a day. There’s lots of talk and stories flying around. We’ll see what lands.”