Benedict Cumberbatch apologizes for calling black people "colored"

He used the remark during a discussion about the lack of opportunities for black actors in the U.S. vs. the U.K.

Published January 27, 2015 3:28PM (EST)

Benedict Cumberbatch       (Reuters/Danny Moloshok)
Benedict Cumberbatch (Reuters/Danny Moloshok)

Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch has apologized for calling black actors “colored” during an interview on PBS’ Tavis Smiley Show. The remark came up during a conversation with “The Imitation Game” star about the difficulties black actors face working in his native Britain versus in Hollywood. “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 America] than in the U.K., and that’s something that needs to change," he said.

Cumberbatch was immediately criticized for his use of the outdated term, with a spokesperson for anti-racism group Show Racism the Red Card telling The Independent: “Benedict Cumberbatch has highlighted a very important issue within the entertainment industry and within society. In doing so, he has also inadvertently highlighted the issue of appropriate terminology and the evolution of language.”

Cumberbatch was fast to issue an apology, calling himself an “idiot” and a “complete fool.” Here’s the full statement, released to People magazine:

"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."

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.”

By Anna Silman

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