23 March, 2011
Pot complains about number of white kettles
We're used to the endless period dramas – for example, ITV's Downtown Abbey – where, as a result of not being given an opportunity to be auditioned, we are left in no doubt that we [ie Black actors] have no chance of donning a period costume.
If they do a life of Dr Johnson, Anon, you could always audition for the part of Francis Barber. If you have, or can do, a White British accent, there's plenty of work in radio drama, historical and contemporary.
The simple fact is that historically there were very few Black people in the UK and those few that were present had minor or subservient roles. It is not unreasonable to expect a role, whether representing an actual person or a dramatic stereotype or archetype, to be played by an actor who is a credible physical approximation to the target. In a dramatization of the Profumo affair, would it be OK for Christine Keeler to be portrayed by a geezer in drag? Or for Helen Mirren to play the part of John Profumo to rectify a perceived shortage of roles for female actors?
The broad exemption of acting from the various employment anti-discrimination laws reflects this obvious reality. Which is why, for example, the scrupulously gender-neutral use of the term "actor" to refer to both men and women players feels so unnatural and forced. It certainly grates on me, but then I'm an unreconstructed racist thug so my opinion doesn't really count.
Brian True-May should lose his job – he's the kind of producer who prevents me from being seen or even considered for a job. I only wish more of us actors had the courage to speak out. But if we did, would the phone ever ring with the offer of a casting? So even I feel I have to remain anonymous.
No, Sunshine. What's preventing you from being considered for a job in British period drama is that you don't look the part.
Your problem is that you have chosen to seek employment in a very restricted niche market. Credible roles for actors of colour in dramas representing life in a historically exclusively and still predominantly White society are few and far between. I symphathize with your plight, Mr Mouse, and reflect on how lucky I am that I did not embark upon the career of Mature Male Poledancer, or I might even now be penning sanctimonious whines for CiF about my lack of employment.
You want to rig the game, do you? Well, come back and talk to us when blue-eyed Viking types like me are being auditioned to play Nelson Mandela. Then we might think about it.
Or as Anon of 11:16 succinctly puts, it, Bristols!