British actors speak out against “entrenched ageism” in film industry

·2 min read
Keeley Hawes
Keeley Hawes

In an open letter to the British entertainment industry, over 100 actors and other public figures have signed a letter accusing the film and TV business of “entrenched ageism” and asking for better representation for women over the age of 45. That comes from Deadline, which says the letter is part of the Acting Your Age Campaign, which is looking—among other things—to fight against the idea that women in the entertainment industry have a “shelf life” while men are allowed to have a “whole life.”

Those who signed the open letter include David Tennant, Zawe Ashton, Meera Syal, Juliet Stevenson, Richard E. Grant, Lesley Manville, and Keeley Hawes. The goals of the Acting Your Age Campaign include “equal gender and age representation” for “all onscreen fictional content and light entertainment programs with male and female leads or presenters,” as well as age and gender parity for “writer/performer dramas and comedy,” parity for “presenters of documentaries,” age parity for guests and panels on news shows, no “exclusive bias towards young women” in news pieces about women, and the use of both “recent photographs” and segments that cover “women and men over 45 equally” in celebrity and entertainment news.

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In an apparent coincidence, Absolutely Fabulous star Jane Horrocks made a similar point this weekend as well, suggesting that audiences of British film and television are being poorly served by producers who keep casting the same small group of women in everything. “I think it’s a bit limiting for the audiences to see the same crowd always coming on,” she said, adding “I just feel sorry for the audience really that the commissioners and the producers are so short-sighted that they have to keep churning out the same people.”

Those same people she’s referring to seem to be Olivia Colman, Lily James, Sarah Lancashire, and Keeley Hawes, with Horrocks acknowledging that they “do an amazing job” and are “of course” going to take the roles that are offered to them,” but “there are a lot of actors out there who could bring something new to one of those roles, unexpected”—and if you follow that thread, it’s not hard to see why there aren’t enough roles for older women, then.