Benedict Cumberbatch Apologizes for Calling Black Actors ‘Colored’

File photo of Benedict Cumberbatch posing with his award during the Hollywood Film Awards in Hollywood

Oscar-nominated British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is apologizing for a verbal misstep, in which he referred to non-white actors as “colored.”

The Imitation Game actor was discussing the subject of diversity in entertainment with PBS liberal political commentator Tavis Smiley last week, when the conversation shifted toward race in the industry.

“I think as far as colored actors go, it gets really difficult in the U.K.” Cumberbatch said about the chances for black actors to find success stateside. “I think a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here than in the U.K., and that’s something that needs to change.”

In a statement released Monday by PEOPLE, the actor apologized for his terminology:

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.

Smiley, who recently compared President Obama to Jesus on CBS’ Face the Nation, also spoke out about the miscue Monday. He told USA TODAY, via email:

Sometimes words get in the way, but what was abundantly clear to me, and I trust to viewers who saw the conversation, is that Benedict Cumberbatch is in solidarity with persons of color who are still staggeringly underrepresented in the film and entertainment industry.

In Jan. of 2014 it was disclosed that Stacey Cumberbatch, New York City’s commissioner of citywide administrative services, is a descendant of slaves once owned by Benedict Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather.


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