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David Harewood: 'The US has better roles for black actors'

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David Harewood

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Homeland star David Harewood has claimed that there are better roles for black actors in the US than the UK.

Harewood, who plays the CIA's deputy director David Estes in Homeland, suggested that a lot of his British peers are travelling to the States for work.

Speaking at a London BAFTA screening of the drama, he said: "I think unfortunately there really aren't that many roles for authoritative, strong black characters in this country. We just don't write those characters - that's a fact. So a lot of my contemporaries are going to America. I kind of thought I'd missed the boat."

Harewood cited Idris Elba as an example of a British actor who had been successful in the US after a difficult start in the UK.

"I can remember talking to him years ago about his frustrations and he told me, 'I'll go to America' and I kind of thought, 'What are you doing that for?'" he said. "Look at him now. The guy's a huge star. So he made the right decision to go when he did. And now he comes back and is doing Luther."

Harewood acknowledged that it took Elba "a long time to crack it" but added: "Now he can come back and... he's a national treasure. For me, that's kind of what I knew I needed to do because I simply wouldn't have been given a role of that weight or authority [like the one in Homeland] here in the UK. That's just a fact."

Harewood, who has also starred in the movie Blood Diamond and the BBC television series Robin Hood, later admitted that he would "encourage" young black actors to "get to America".

"Or to at least try and have that ambition in your back pocket," he continued. "Because they do seem to embrace a more diverse palette and I think that's sad, but that's just the facts. I want to encourage people to get there as quickly as they can."

Homeland, which has been renewed for a second season, will premiere in the UK on Channel 4 next month.

> Barack Obama names Homeland as favourite show

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