BBC diversity chief Miranda Wayland has sparked debate after she said the Idris Elba-starring Luther isn’t “authentic” because “he doesn’t have Black friends.”

On Monday, Wayland participated in the BBC’s diversity and inclusion strategy talk at the digital MIPTV conference, which is where she made her comments. Entertainment Tonight reports that Wayland said “everybody loved” Idris Elba in the series when the show first started, highlighting him as “a really strong, Black character lead.” She continued, “We all fell in love with him. Who didn’t, right? But after you got into about the second series you got kind of like, ‘OK, he doesn’t have any Black friends, he doesn’t eat any Caribbean food, this doesn’t feel authentic.’”

Wayland is the head of the BBC’s creative diversity unit, which the public service broadcaster launched in 2019. “It's great having those big landmark shows with those key characters, but it's about making sure everything around them, their environment, their culture, the set is absolutely reflective," she added. "It will be very much about how can we make sure that this program is authentic in terms of the storytelling." Luther ran from 2010 to 2019 across five seasons and co-starred Ruth Wilson.

The comments were met with a mixed response, although a lot of fans questioned the wording. Many have suggested there are more important racial issues to tackle than whether Luther faithfully depicts an authentic Black character or not.

In a post on his Instagram Story, Elba appeared to address the situation without directly addressing Wayland’s comments. “We must not pull ourselves backwards, only push ourselves forwards,” he wrote. In a statement shared with CNN, a BBC spokesperson said that the broadcaster is “tremendously proud” of the show. “The BBC is committed to its continued investment in diversity and recent BBC One dramas I May Destroy You and Small Axe are testament to that,” the spokesperson said. Last year, the BBC announced plans to dedicate £112 million to support more diverse productions going forward.

The character was not initially written as Black, the show’s writer Neil Cross has admitted, as the Independent pointed out. “I have no knowledge or expertise or right to try to tackle in some way the experience of being a Black man in modern Britain," Cross said. "It would have been an act of tremendous arrogance for me to try to write a Black character. We would have ended up with a slightly embarrassed, ignorant, middle-class, white writer’s idea of a Black character.”