Benedict Cumberbatch Apologizes for Using an Outdated (and Racially Insensitive) Word

Even in England, folks just don't use THAT word

Cumberbatch Smiley

The guy has an elitist name — one that reads like he spent much of his youth playing with Silver Spoons. Add to that his totally Brit accent and superb acting chops, and you have a teflon Benedict Cumberbatch.

Trekkies know him as the new Khan, Marvel acolytes will know him as Doctor Strange, and thousands of female fans call themselves “Cumberbitches” in his honor (no, really). In short, nothing sticks to this guy but good will and cash. But he recently appeared on the Tavis Smiley Show, where he encountered his first taste of Her Majesty’s #PRFail.

He was discussing diversity in Hollywood (thank you, Viola Davis) with Tavis when he said:

“I think as far as colored actors go, it gets really difficult in the U.K., and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities (in the U.S.) than in the U.K. and that’s something that needs to change.”

It’s very doubtful that he meant anything by it, but the 1960s apparently wanted their semi-bigoted terminology back. Last night, Cumberbatch sincerely apologized:

“I’m devastated to have caused offense by using this outmoded terminology. I offer my sincere apologies. I make no excuse for my being an idiot and know the damage is done.”

The always-classy Smiley emailed USA Today a statement in Cumberbatch’s defense:

“Sometimes words get in the way, but what was abundantly clear to me, and I trust to viewers who saw the conversation, is that Benedict Cumberbatch is in solidarity with persons of color who are still staggeringly underrepresented in the film and entertainment industry.”

Crisis averted, learning experience recorded, et cetera. We would, however, like to offer a quick MEMO to Benedict: If you are ever on camera, don’t ask for a cigarette in that uncomfortable UK way. We don’t use that word anymore, either.

Publish date: January 27, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT