David Oyelowo, the British actor and star of Ava DuVernay's Oscar nominated civil rights drama Selma, has defended Benedict Cumberbatch in the wake of his U.S television interview during which he referred to black actors as "coloured". 

David OyelowoDavid Oyelowo has described criticism of Benedict Cumberbatch as "silly"

Cumberbatch, also Oscar-nominated for The Imitation Game, said he was "devastated" at is use of the word though the vast majority of commentators came to his defence given he was speaking about the limited opportunities available to black British actors.

Oyelowo, who was snubbed in the Oscar nominations for his portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr, was one of the high profile stars to back Cumberbatch.

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"I think it's ridiculous," he told the BBC, "When you look at what he was actually saying it's clear that he's a huge supporter of black performers. To attack him for a term, as opposed to what he was actually saying, I think is very disingenuous and is indicative of the age we live in where people are looking for sound bites as opposed to substance.

"I think it's just part of the silly news cycle that we all feed off and it will go away like chip paper as it does," added Oyelowo. "He's a brilliant actor, he gives a brilliant performance in Imitation Game and, like I say, it's just a diversion from what we should be talking about, which is that astounding performance."

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Diversity in film has been a rich talking point in recent weeks, particularly after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, handed out all of its 20 acting nominations to white actors. 

"Excellence is the best weapon against prejudice," said Oyelowo, "I intend to be part of the solution and not the problem. You've just got to keep on banging out good performances."