Defending his new musical, Julian Fellowes has argued that period dramas should not be pressured to uphold a diverse cast.
Fellowes stated “when you are doing a modern drama there is no reason why anyone can’t play most parts”. He then, however, argued that his West End musical set in a 1900 seaside town is “in a different territory”.
The 67-year-old Downton Abbey feels that an all-white cast can be excused. He believes that a diverse cast would make a production appear to be inaccurate.
Fellowes newest musical creation, ‘Half a Sixpence’ is based on H.G.Wells’ 1905 novel, ‘Kipps’. Fellowes failed to embrace a diverse cast opting instead for an all-white one.
After facing criticism, the screenwriter and film director commented and defended his decision. The 67-year-old said, “you can’t make something untruthful”.
Fellowes highlighted the difference between modern and contemporary dramas. Fellowes said that “in every contemporary drama, there is a completely realistic option”.
Subsequently, Fellowes ignores the history and presence of ethnic minorities in Britain. People of colour have been present in Britain for centuries. Therefore, it is possible they can be represented in dramas of this kind.
Modern audiences are said to be familiar with diverse casting rather than ‘literal’ casting. Thus, many argue a plot would not be jarred if a period character was played by someone who wasn’t white.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation recently reported that theatre industry is “hideously white”.
The foundation’s December 2016 report found a “lack of representation on stage”. The foundation reported that this lack of representation often leads BAME students to feel that theatre is “not for them”.
ITV’s period drama, ‘The Halcyon’, has worked against these injustices. Set in 1940s London, black musicians, a German refugee chef and RAF officers from across the Empire can be found.
Photo Credit: BBC Children in need