TV dramatist Jimmy McGovern has revealed that he is struggling to fill working class roles because of a dearth of actors from poorer backgrounds.
The acclaimed screenwriter, whose credits include Cracker, Hillsborough, The Street and Sunday, said that the disappearance of young, working class actors was influencing the type of dramas that are being made.
Jimmy, 65, is preparing a new drama about Reg Keys, the father of a serviceman killed in Iraq who stood as an anti-war candidate against Tony Blair in his Sedgefield constituency in 2005.
Reg Keys’ son was killed fighting for the British army in Iraq (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
He told Radio Times magazine: “If this was old-time Hollywood, you’d get Gary Cooper or James Stewart in the Reg Keys role.
“But that’s a real problem we’ve got in Britain today.
“I’m constantly looking round for actors who can convincingly portray working-class men. They’re getting fewer and fewer because it’s only the posh ones who can afford to go into acting.
“And it affects the kind of British drama that gets made. If you were to cast Saturday Night and Sunday Morning today, who would you get for the Albert Finney role?”
Albert Finney played a factory worker in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (William Conran/PA)
Jimmy’s comments came after Eddie Redmayne, who was educated at Eton, was crowned best actor at the Academy Awards.
His fellow British nominee Benedict Cumberbatch also enjoyed a private education at Harrow.
Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch both went to public school (Ian West/PA)
Veteran actress Julie Walters, The Walking Dead star David Morrissey and Call The Midwife star Stephen McGann have complained about a shortage of young actors emerging from poorer backgrounds.
But Benedict’s former drama teacher recently insisted that his expensive education had hindered rather than helped his career.
”I feel that they are being limited (from playing certain parts) by critics and audiences as a result of what their parents did for them at the age of 13. And that seems to me very unfair,” Martin Tyrell said.
Russell Tovey, Myana Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished (BBC)
McGovern’s new historical drama Banished, on BBC2, charts the establishment of Britain’s first penal colony in New South Wales, Australia.
The Liverpudlian said that ‘being a Scouser makes you that bit more sensitive, I think, to portraying people accurately’.
He told the magazine: “There’s this thought that crime runs in families and you’re only as good as your dad was. Well, that’s totally wrong and I always argue that Australia is the proof. Because if crime were in your genes, then Australia would be the most crime-ridden society in the world – when it’s one of the safest.”
He said: “It has become fashionable, now, in Australia to have one or two convicts in your past, but that’s a recent thing. And it’s interesting, because what the Aussies like to do is to portray their ancestors as people who stole off the lords of the manor. In reality most of them were petty thieves with no morals whatsoever.”