Idris Elba is known by audiences for many roles, including the BBC procedural drama series Luther. Over the years, he’s been everyone’s top fancasting choice for the role of debonair international spy James Bond/007. 

In a new cover story with Esquire UK, Elba revealed he doesn’t want to be categorized and put in a box due to his race. 

“I didn’t become an actor because I didn’t see Black people doing it and I wanted to change that,” Elba said. “I did it because I thought that’s a great profession and I could do a good job at it. As you get up the ladder, you get asked what it’s like to be the first Black to do this or that. Well, it’s the same as it would be if I were white. It’s the first time for me. I don’t want to be the first Black. I’m the first Idris.”

Elba, also known for roles in projects like Molly’s Game and The Harder They Fall, also spoke candidly on the topic of race and how it can help or hinder people.

He said, “Of course, I’m a member of the Black community. You say a prominent one. But when I go to America, I’m a prominent member of the British community. ‘Oh, UK’s in the house!’ If we spent half the time not talking about the differences but the similarities between us, the entire planet would have a shift in the way we deal with each other. As humans, we are obsessed with race. And that obsession can really hinder people’s aspirations, hinder people’s growth. Racism should be a topic for discussion, sure. Racism is very real. But from my perspective, it’s only as powerful as you allow it to be.”

Elba further concluded that he ceased describing himself as a Black actor because he didn’t want to be put in a box.

“I stopped describing myself as a Black actor when I realized it put me in a box. We’ve got to grow. We’ve got to. Our skin is no more than that: it’s just skin. Rant over,” Elba concluded.