• Saturday, May 25, 2024

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Sir Lenny says survey shows racism exists in entertainment industry

Sir Lenny Henry said the findings are a “stain against the entire industry”. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

By: Sattwik Biswal

MORE than half of all actors from ethnic minorities have directly experienced racism in the workplace, a new study has found.

More than 1,300 actors took part of the UK survey, which found 64 per cent had experienced racist stereotyping during an audition, while 55 per cent suffered racist behaviour at work.

Moreover, it was also found where 71 per cent said hair and make-up departments failed to cater to their heritage hair or skin tone.

Sir Lenny Henry said the findings are a “stain against the entire industry”.

The actor and comedian also said: “This report finally brings into the open what many of us talk about, and suffer, in private.

“We all work in this industry because we love it, but we must do better.”

The report was commissioned by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University.

Almost four out of five actors said they were asked to audition for a role that potentially stereotyped their ethnicity. Only 39 per cent felt they could turn down those auditions.

An actress of middle eastern heritage said “all the roles that were specific to my heritage… were all stereotypical”, with “scripts written with broken English”.

A British Asian actress in her 50s said “eight out of 10” of her auditions were for an “Indian mother/aunt, etc, with accent”, often spouting outdated ideas on sexuality and interracial marriage.

“[It’s] like my generation of British Asian has been completely forgotten, but we are the ones that left home and defied convention,” she said. “We studied Shakespeare and Ibsen and went to uni in the UK… yet we just don’t exist.”

Lack of diversity in casting

The findings revealed stereotypes were hard-wired when it came to casting, as Afro-Caribbean actors were often told to “play it more sassy, urban and street”.

Then there were instances when actors of various ethnicities were asked to “do a Middle-Eastern accent” or “sound ‘more Asian'”.

Sir Lenny said the lack of diversity in casting was “one of the greatest challenges facing the industry”.

“Every time we see a great actor like Thandiwe Newton, Idris Elba or David Harewood leave these shores to find opportunities denied to them in the UK, it is a painful reminder of why casting is so important,” he wrote.

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