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Sir Lenny Henry slams 'very, very white' BBC and takes swipe at Will Smith

Published 15/05/2016

Sir Lenny Henry with the special award during the House of Fraser Bafta TV Awards 2016
Sir Lenny Henry with the special award during the House of Fraser Bafta TV Awards 2016

Sir Lenny Henry has said Will Smith has stopped "being black" due to his success and branded the BBC as "very, very white."

The veteran comedian, who was recently honoured by Bafta with the Alan Clarke prize at the television awards, also criticised a "oppressive " lack of ethnic minority faces on the big and small screen.

"If a movie makes more than a hundred dollars, some black people stop being black - they become Will Smith," he told Sunday People.

Sir Lenny said the entertainment industry fails to show a multicultural society, adding: "Until writers and directors reflect what is happening, they won't represent us properly."

The Comic Relief founder described the BBC as "an oppressive institution" that has to change, adding: "I worked at the BBC for 35 years before I had a meeting with anyone who looks like me.

"The only people like me were cleaning that corridors and that is not right.

"You walk into the Beeb and it is very, very white. That is not anybody's fault. You can be in an oppressive institution and not be an oppressor."

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said diversity would be at the very centre of changes made to the BBC when he unveiled his White Paper on the future of the broadcaster last week.

Sir Lenny also slammed the lack of diversity at this year's Oscars, joking that the only brown person nominated for an academy award was the bear in the film The Revenant.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are making good progress in our work to make the BBC a truly diverse organisation and we're proud of what we've achieved so far."

He added said that 13% of the Corporation's workforce is black, Asian or ethnic minority - an all-time high.

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