Elba,who earned acclaim in Beasts of No Nation, was among the non-white actors completely shut out of the Academy Awards' acting categories. He spoke about problems in Britain's entertainment industry before a group of British Members of Parliament on Monday, the BBC reports.
The 43-year-old London native said the U.K. needs to acknowledge the lack of multicultural actors and actresses on screen.
"We need to counter what everybody has, see the lay of the land and see who has which careers in TV," Elba said. "Who makes TV, and who is allowed on TV and when they get the opportunity which roles do they play, on and off screen."
He continued, "You have to ask the question – are black people normally playing petty criminals? Are women always the love interest or talking about men? Are gay people always stereotyped? Are disabled people ever seen at all?"
The Golden Globe-winning actor said that there are some ways that Britain can emulate America's approach – to a point.
"This is what every young British actor asks me – black, white, male, female – should I go to America to become a successful actor?" Elba said. "And I'm always in a quandary because its not always true that the grass is greener. The reason I went to America is because the U.S.A. has the most famous diversity policy of all and it's called the American dream."
Elba said that the problem lies in "the gap between the dream and reality."
"Now the gap is what Martin Luther King set out to fill in his dream," the Luther actor explained. "To champion diversity is to champion the American dream."
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Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs released an official statement about the representation of diversity at the 2016 Oscars on Monday, saying that she is "frustrated" about the nominations.
"This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes," she said. "The Academy is taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership."
Some stars have already announced they are refusing to attend the awards show. Among them: Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee.