David Harewood: ‘I felt that they wanted me to go on TV, talk, and cry. I was a news item’

David Harewood: ‘I felt that they wanted me to go on TV, talk, and cry. I was a news item’

February 28, 2021

The British actor on his new documentary about Covid and people of colour, his breakdown aged 23, and having days left to finish his memoir

David Harewood, 55, was born in Birmingham and is an actor and broadcaster perhaps best known for playing CIA director David Estes in the Channel 4 series Homeland. He recently presented Psychosis and Me, a moving documentary about his experience of being sectioned, aged 23. His latest thought-provoking BBC One documentary, Why Is Covid Killing People of Colour?, scrutinises scandalous inequalities in the NHS and shows how every aspect of health in BAME communities can be affected by deprivation and racism.

Why Is Covid Killing People of Colour? reveals health inequality on a terrifying scale. What shocked you most, personally, as you were making the film?
I had no idea that women of colour are five times more likely to die in childbirth. It’s only since Black Lives Matter took off that everyone now wants to talk to Jenny Douglas [an academic and activist featured in the documentary], who has been struggling to get people to acknowledge these statistics for 20 years. I’ve found the same myself. It was very emotive last year, after George Floyd’s death, because we were all suddenly very visible… I found it exhausting. It’s wonderful to be heard, but if people have been denying my reality for decades and now they’re telling me they want to hear it… It was very strange. What I felt was that they wanted me to go on TV, talk, and cry. I was a news item: “Thank you very much, David Harewood, now we’ll move on to the weather.”

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