Benedict Cumberbatch has apologised for calling black actors "coloured" on a U.S. chat show.

The Imitation Game star, who is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, is "devastated" after realising he caused offence during a chat about diversity in British acting on Tavis Smiley's late-night show, admitting he feels like "an idiot".

He told the African-American host, "I think as far as coloured actors go, it gets really difficult in the U.K., and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here (in the U.S.) than in the U.K. and that's something that needs to change."

His comments were seized upon by charity leaders at Show Racism the Red Card who criticised the Sherlock star for "highlighting the issue of appropriate terminology".

Officials said, "The term 'coloured' is now outdated and has the potential to cause offence due to the connotations associated with the term and its historical usage."

Cumberbatch was quick to offer his apologies, stating, "I can only hope this incident will highlight the need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive.

"The most shaming aspect of this for me is that I was talking about racial inequality in the performing arts in the U.K. and the need for rapid improvements in our industry when I used the term.

"I feel the complete fool I am and while I am sorry to have offended people and to learn from my mistakes in such a public manner, please be assured I have. I apologise again to anyone who I offended for this thoughtless use of inappropriate language about an issue which affects friends of mine and which I care about deeply."

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