Luther’s lack of black friends ‘doesn’t feel authentic’, BBC diversity chief says

TV detective Luther “doesn’t feel authentic” because he has no black friends and doesn’t eat Caribbean food, a BBC diversity boss has suggested.

Idris Elba plays detective Luther in the critically-acclaimed BBC drama of the same name, which has ran for five seasons since 2010.

Elba was praised by BBC creative diversity chief Miranda Wayland for playing a “really strong, black character lead” during the MIPTV conference on Wednesday.

Idris Elba during a photo call for Luther series 5, at the Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 11th, 2018. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/PA Wire
Idris Elba plays the embattled detective Luther

She added though that by the second series, she was questioning the character’s authenticity.

Ms Wayland said that TV bosses must ensure that black characters are supported by an environment and culture that is “absolutely reflective” of their background.

She said: “When it first came out, everybody loved the fact that Idris Elba was in there. A really strong, black character lead. We all fell in love with Luther. Who didn’t, right?

“But after you got into about the second series, you were kind of like ‘okay, actually he doesn’t have any black friends, he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food, this doesn’t feel authentic’.

More from Idris Elba

“So I think it is great having those big landmark shows with those key characters, but it is about making sure that everything around them – their environment, their culture, the set – is absolutely reflective.”

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Luther is a multi-award-winning crime drama series and the iconic role of DCI John Luther has become one of TV’s most powerful detective characters, of which we are tremendously proud.

Subscribe to the Backstage podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

“The BBC is committed to its continued investment in diversity and recent BBC One dramas I May Destroy You and Small Axe are testament to that.”

An additional statement added: “Of course people can have open discussions about our shows but that doesn’t mean it’s a statement of policy.”

Ms Wayland has been the BBC’s head of creative diversity since February 2020, and was appointed as part of the corporation’s commitment to deliver more on-air diversity.