Thanks to shows and nerd-friendly roles in Sherlock and Star Trek Into Darkness, Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the Internet’s most-beloved actors, with a massive fan base. As a popular celebrity, Cumberbatch experiences intense scrutiny from the public, who’s always on the watch for any slip-ups that can be a source of controversy.
In a recent interview with PBS, the Academy Award-nominated actor received a massive backlash from the internet after using the term “colored people” while talking about how race plays out in the film industries of Hollywood and London. Cumberbatch was commenting on the lack of roles for people of color in the industry. “I think as far as colored actors go, it gets really different in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in America] than in the UK,” he stated during the interview.
benedict cumberbatch using the word ‘colored’ has proved my theory that he’s a railroad tycoon from 1881 who time travelled here
— petty davis (@accessforbidden) January 28, 2015
WOW! IN 2015? British actor Benedict Cumberbatch called black people ‘colored’ on PBS talk show Tavis Smiley.… http://t.co/dMH7aWjtds
— Jide ‘BBK’ Salu (@jidesalu) January 26, 2015
If BLACK people aren’t “coloured’, then what are they? Much ado about nothing, it’s the outrage express first class. http://t.co/jVHEfZHiCN
— A Man out of time (@DVATW) January 26, 2015
After the outrage, Cumberbatch released a statement to People magazine apologizing about his choice of words. He admitted that the damage had been done and that he was devastated about the fact that he caused offense not only to his friends, but to his fans all over the world.
“I can only hope this incident will highlight the need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive.”
The 38-year-old actor admitted how ashamed he was for using the term while talking about the status of racial inequality in showbiz. While some are criticizing Cumberbatch, fellow actors like Selma‘s David Oyelowo thinks that people should highlight the overall message that Cumberbatch was trying to deliver instead of the words that he used to bring that message.
“We use the term ‘people of color’ in America,” Oyelowo pointed out. “Is that immensely different to what he said? I don’t think so, just focus on what he was trying to say.”
It wasn’t long ago that the word “colored” was used every day. In fact, in South Africa, people openly use the term to describe people who have multiple heritages. Over the years, though, the word has been buried and left behind as people of color felt that the word was dehumanizing.
Cumberbatch is no stranger to the history of race as he starred in last year’s Oscar Best Picture, 12 Years a Slave, where he played a kindly slave owner who helped save the life of Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. After his Oscar-nominated performance in The Imitation Game, Cumberbatch is slated to star as one of Marvel’s newest cinematic superheroes, Doctor Strange.
[Lead image via Crushable.]