In a recent interview with Essence, F9 and Game of Thrones star Nathalie Emmanuel shared her thoughts on why Black British actors like herself are leaving their home country in search of better opportunities in Hollywood.
Over the last couple of years, we have seen quite a number of Black British actors landing major movie roles in Hollywood. Besides Emmanuel, the likes of Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya, John Boyega, Regé-Jean Page, Leticia Wright, Jodie Turner-Smith and Idris Elba among other British actors have become household names in Hollywood. And Emmanuel said the influx of British actors in Hollywood is largely because they have still not been accepted back home.
“The British industry hasn’t always embraced us,” Emmanuel, who was born in the English resort town of Southend-on-Sea, explained. “So many Black mixed people like myself have come out to America, because the opportunities just weren’t here for us. Unfortunately, what’s happened is a lot of Black talent has been lost to the States.”
Although the 32-year-old admitted Hollywood has its own problems with regards to diversity, she said the acting industry in the United States nevertheless has “more opportunities” for people like her kind.
“It’s not like we hadn’t been calling for this [in Britain] for many years. It was just falling on deaf ears,” she said. “I think, frankly, that the U.S. has so much more opportunity for people of all kinds of backgrounds and all kinds of people. The industry is bigger so there’s more being made, and there’s kind of space for more people. While it has its issues too, and we’re still calling for necessary, important change through every area of the industry, there seems to be just more opportunity.”
Emmanuel, who is also of Saint Lucian and Dominican descent, added that the diversity in Hollywood is what spurred her to cross borders to take a risk in the United States. “I kind of just took a risk like I guess I’m going to try and I’m really really proud of that and the fact that the universe has decided Nathalie, this is going to happen. It’s surreal. I pinch myself regularly,” she said.
Elsewhere in the interview, Emmanuel became emotional when she was talking about what it means for people of color to grace the big screens. “It’s always really heartwarming when someone comes up to me and they say, ‘Oh, my daughter hated her hair, she hated her skin, she hated these things about herself and she saw you and now she loves herself,’” a teary Emmanuel said.
“It literally makes me want to cry because I was that little girl, so the fact that I can be that for someone else is lovely.”