Spooks race row as David Oyelowo claims 'problematic' bosses blocked him from lead role because viewers 'weren't ready'

SPOOKS has drawn accusations of racism after actor David Oyelowo claimed bosses blocked him from taking on a lead role – because viewers “weren’t ready” for it.

Following the exit of stars Matthew Mcfadyen and Keeley Hawes, David claimed the producers denied him the chance to take on a bigger role – a move which he claims was “racially tinged”.


In an exclusive interview with The Times, the Golden Globe-nominated actor looked back on his time as MI5 agent Danny Hunter with the popular spy series.

When Macfadyen and Hawes left the show after three seasons, the Selma star felt it was ”a fairly natural transition in terms of the storyline” for him to progress to lead status, and admitted that he felt he “had leverage” – but that was not to be.

He explained: “It was expressed to me that that wasn’t going to happen. That the audience supposedly wasn’t ‘ready’ for that.

“And I felt that was racially tinged.”

Oyelowo alleged that when he then informed the show’s producers that he would be leaving, they cautioned against it in a way he felt was “problematic”.

He recalled:”‘It was communicated to me that I was making a mistake because I wasn’t recognising where I needed to stay. I found that very problematic.”

The Sun has contacted the BBC and Spooks producers Kudos for comment.

Spooks was a flagship drama for the BBC for ten seasons – from 2002 to 2011 – and featured stars including Rupert Penry Jones, Nicola Walker, Hermione Norris and Peter Firth.

It also made the leap to the big screen in 2015 with Spooks: The Greater Good, starring Game of Thrones actor Kit Harrington.    

Since Spooks, stage-trained Oyelowo has found success in America as well as the UK, with parts in films including The Last King of Scotland, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Butler and Selma, in which he portrayed Martin Luther King Jr.

In June 2020, Selma director Ava DuVernay backed Oyelowo’s claims that Academy members said they wouldn’t vote for critically-acclaimed civil rights film.

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It came as they looked for justice for Eric Garner, a black man who died after he was placed in a chokehold by a white New York City police officer in 2014.

The death of Garner received renewed attention following the death of George Floyd, and Selma was widely regarded as snubbed when it received no recognition for Oyelowo’s performance or DuVernay’s direction from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the 2015 Oscars.

The film was nominated for best picture and won best original song for Glory, however that year’s awards were accused of a lack of diversity after all 20 acting nominees were white.


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