"It gets really different in the U.K., and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the U.S.] than in the U.K. and that's something that needs to change," The Imitation Game star says
Though the Screen Actors Guild awards made history Sunday by bestowing the two major TV acting honors to women of color for the first time since the Guild began its ceremony, the 2015 awards show season has been criticized for inadequately recognizing people of color.
Despite this, Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s been widely lauded for his portrayal of British computer scientist Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, still thinks the United States is ahead of the United Kingdom when it comes to job opportunities for black actors and actresses.
“I think as far as colored actors go it gets really different in the U.K., and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in the U.S.] than in the U.K., and that’s something that needs to change,” the star, 38, said on the Tavis Smiley PBS talk show., in response to a question Smiley asked him about black British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Oyelowo achieving success with 12 Years a Slave and Selma, respectively.
“Something’s gone wrong,” he continued. “We’re not representative enough in our culture of different races, and that really does need to step up apace.”
“I don’t want to get into any debates about that, but it’s clear when you see certain migratory patterns that there are more opportunities here than in the U.K.,” Cumberbatch added.
Since the interview aired, some have taken offense to Cumberbatch’s use of the term “colored,” for which the actor has offered the following statement to PEOPLE:
“I’m devastated to have caused offense by using this outmoded terminology. 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 U.K. and the need for rapid improvements in our industry when I used the term.”
He continues, “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 apologize 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.”
• Reporting by JULIE JORDAN