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David Harewood: ‘On stage I played King Lear and Othello – on TV I had three lines. It really upset me’

As he publishes a new memoir, the actor talks about the psychotic episode that changed his life, the lack of opportunities for black actors in Britain and toxic masculinity

David Harewood was 23 when he hit “mental ground zero”. It was spring 1989; he was two years out of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) and making his first steps in the industry.

But as a young, black graduate he was caught between wanting to fulfil his potential as an “actor” and navigating expectations placed on him as a “black actor”.

Harewood’s mind started to spiral as recreational weed smoking collided with difficult and demoralising work experiences where his skin colour preceded his performances; on his professional debut in an all-black production of Romeo and Juliet at Manchester’s Contact Theatre in 1988, one critic said Harewood “looked more like Mike Tyson than Romeo”.


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