Recently I have had a bit of a rocky thought process, things business-wise have been going well and have really started to pick up, however, I think as soon as that happens and I can no longer find fault within myself, I start to find fault with the world, and jeez, we have a lot to find fault with in the world we are currently living in. But lot’s to celebrate too.
This week I have been thinking a lot about the absolute lack of diversity in performing. If you aren’t a certain size, identify as a certain skin colour/race, are not conventionally pretty, or do not have any of the other perfect attributes you apparently need to play a leading human on stage or screen, then life is made very difficult.
I constantly receive casting calls which will not accept applicants (for very well-known period crime dramas in particular) over a womens uk size 12, because of ‘period costume’. Well I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that! I should know, I buy a lot of what they call ‘Period costume’ and there is stuff out there! You can also buy amazingly authentic reproduction stuff too. I still however receive these emails every week or so, which has in part, lead to this blog post, turned rant.
And this casting call in particular is only for extras work and small parts. There are tonnes of casting calls which define both men and women, just by what they look like before they even get to an audition! Is this me? Or is this completely wrong? Any other industry would be very hugely reprimanded for such goings on. I do understand that certain characters need certain attributes, and directors/writers have certain visions of what their characters should embody physically. However I am getting sick of seeing the fat girl as the best friend and many other cliché’s, which I’m sure you can think of!
I want to see the fat girl get the boy/girl and not even have her weight mentioned (not the girl getting the boy despite her being fat). I want to see a line of dancers, with all different skin tones, body shapes and heights. I want to see a more diverse world on my screen and in the theatre in general.
The key to this is not making the person in a wheel chair the main character because they are in a wheel chair, but putting them in there because they have a talent and deserve to play the lead. I am using the ‘person in a wheel chair’ and ‘the fat girl’ as examples but there are so many other people who are not represented enough on the screen and stage, because of their disability, skin colour, race, hair colour, dress size, height, sexual orientation, lack of ‘conventional prettiness’, accent, gender and probably so much more.
Now some people may argue, that there are simply not as many (let’s use again, women over a size uk 14 as an example), going to auditions, therefore they are less likely to be cast. I do know first hand that before you can get to audition stage, even when sending a self-taped audition, a casting director will look at your headshot and judge you on your look, size, eye-colour, hair colour etc, which you have to include on every casting site and on your CV. Often in a casting call, all you have to do is read it to find out that if you are not blond-haired, or a UK size 8-12 and white, as a women, you are not ‘in demand’. I do believe that men get away with more as there are generally more main roles for men within theatre and TV which is simply a fact. However I am sure there are a lot of men who face the same judgement.
I could go on forever and have so much to say on this subject, but I feel if I carry on any further I may never stop. So here is some food for thought to casting directors, agencies, choreographers, directors and anyone who has a hand in putting performers on stage or screen. We live in such a dynamic and diverse world, you may think your audience will expect your leading lady or gent, to look a certain way. You may imagine them in this way, and feel they ‘need’ to have a certain look in order for them to take on a certain character or persona. However that is not the case, this is probably in fact leading a lot of your audience to feel mis-represented or completely un-represented, alienating them from your work. I do not look to irradiate the ‘conventional’, I merely hope to equalize and diversify casts and judge performers on their talent rather on the way they look.
Performance, be it on stage or screen is a social art, we need to make sure as creators that we are socializing with society as a whole, with an inclusive platform for our performers. This and only this will ensure that we can engage to our full potential with our audience and will strengthen and grow our art as never before.
Please feel free to leave your comments, this is such a huge subject to me and I believe really has a huge effect on a lot of things.