Noel Clarke says British talent needs better nurturing

Actor and director Noel Clarke has said that British talent needs to be nurtured better.

The Kidulthood star was speaking as part of a panel titled Dramatic Times on the second day of the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Clarke said: “I think there are shining lights, like you said, Small Axe (Steve McQueen’s anthology series) is coming. I May Destroy You is brilliant but that is Michaela (Coel), she had to become Michaela to get there.

“And this is the problem – Steve McQueen is Steve McQueen, he had to become Steve McQueen to get there…”

Rakuten TV Empire Awards 2018 – London
Rakuten TV Empire Awards 2018 – London

“What we don’t do enough in this country is nurture our talent and build them to those places. What we do is wait till they blow up somewhere else and then quickly scramble and go ‘Oh look what we’ve got, we’ve got their show’, and talk about how wonderful we are at our dinner parties with our champagne.”

Speaking alongside writer Russell T Davies, Succession writer Lucy Prebble, BBC controller of drama Piers Wenger and Channel 4 head of drama Caroline Hollick, he said British talent should not have to become more famous in America before being recognised on home soil.

“What’s not happening enough is, you know people shouldn’t have to pop in America or have to be, slowly become successful because other people say they are good, before we in Britain embrace them and nurture them,” he said.

“We should do that here and we don’t do that enough, and so for me … it is getting better, there is no denying that, but I think if you are a white writer director or both, you are allowed to slowly progress and build and build until you become that household name, and you can make mistake after mistake and it kind of doesn’t matter.

“Once you’re on that track, you’re on that track.

“If you are a black person or Asian, or any other person of colour that has even less opportunity, it’s like, you are not nurtured, you’ve got that one shot, and if that one shot doesn’t work you’re kind of screwed.

“I feel like we need to look at how we nurture our talent, and build them so that we don’t end up in these situations where it has to be a Steve McQueen or Michaela or someone like that, but there’s an abundance of people.”

Sir Steve’s Small Axe anthology series, which will air on BBC One, will feature six hour-long films telling five different stories, with John Boyega starring as police officer and anti-racism reformer Leroy Logan in an episode titled Red, White And Blue.

On the first day of the Edinburgh TV Festival, being held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, a trailer for Mangrove, from the anthology, was also shown.

Coel’s 12-part hit series I May Destroy You, which aired on HBO in the US and BBC One in the UK, explores the question of sexual consent and has been praised across the board, with stars such as Adele and Jane Fonda among its celebrity fans.

Asked what he thinks needs to change to ensure “real and lasting change”, Clarke joked that he is not the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) but quipped: “I’d probably answer it better than him anyways.”

Kicking off Tuesday is our Dramatic Times session with Russell T. Davies (@russelldavies63) and Noel Clarke (@NoelClarke). Tune in as we explore the challenges behind getting scripted TV funded and produced ! Sponsored by

— Edinburgh TV Festival (@EdinburghTVFest) August 25, 2020

He added: “What needs to happen is that we need to make sure what’s happening right now is not just this quarter’s hashtag, and you know in six months’ time or whatever it’s going to be, something else…

“Black Lives Matter is not trending anymore. I think what needs to change for me – and this is not just about writers and directors, this is about the industry as a whole, in terms of crew and all this kind of stuff – we need to get people in at the ground level…”

Clarke said he is currently filming a job in which he is the lead, and had asked on the first day for the diversity of the crew to be improved.

He told the virtual panel: “I’m on a job now, which I can’t mention, and I came in on day one and I’m the lead and … I was like ‘The crew is not diverse enough. Fix it’.”

– Other speakers for Tuesday’s Edinburgh TV Festival include the directors of programmes for Channel 5 (Ben Frow) and Channel 4 (Ian Katz).