David Harewood says blackface is 'grotesque distortion of race'

David Harewood poses during the BAFTA Games Awards 2024 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Britain, 11 April 2024.

Actor David Harewood has said white actors using make-up to play black characters is "a grotesque distortion of race and should always be condemned".

The star put out a statement after he sparked debate with an interview where he appeared to take the opposite position, saying actors "should be able to do anything" - including use blackface.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said actors should be able to play roles that did not simply mirror their own real-life characteristics, which extended to white actors playing Othello.

"I say, if you want to black up, have at it, man. It’d better be... good, or else you’re gonna get laughed off the stage. But knock yourself out!" he said.

"Anybody should be able to do anything."

Othello has historically seen white actors use make-up to appear black while playing the titular character, although using blackface in Shakespeare’s play and elsewhere is now widely seen as unacceptable.

However, after the interview was published on Tuesday, Harewood issued a statement. "I don’t support or condone Blackface," he said, reported by Variety and Entertainment Weekly.

"My own documentary on the subject can be found on the BBC website. It is a grotesque distortion of race and should always be condemned."

Last year, the actor explored the subject in a BBC Two documentary called David Harewood on Blackface.

In the film, he said he found programmes like The Black and White Minstrel Show, which ran from the 1950s to 70s and featured white performers wearing black make-up, "deeply confusing" and "deeply poisonous".

Birmingham-born Harewood is well known for appearing in TV series Homeland and Supergirl.

He was recently named the new president of drama school Rada.