British actors call for more women over 45 on screen

Old Blighty is sticking up for the older broads! Almost 100 well-known British folks signed a letter asking for better representation for women over the age of 45 in entertainment. The move originated from the Acting Your Age Campaign that was started by actress Nicky Clark in 2018. She got tired of seeing women over the age of 45 disappear from any significant roles. As the campaign suggests, “women in the UK only have a “shelf life” on screen while their male colleagues have a “whole life”. Now that the campaign has gotten some traction, a large number of influential Brits, of all ages, are putting their name to paper asking that the age bracket for women be expanded.

More than 100 actors and public figures in the UK have put their name to an open letter calling for better onscreen representation of older women, to help fight “entrenched ageism” of the entertainment industry.

Among the signatories are Keeley Hawes, Lesley Manville, Richard E Grant, David Tennant, Zawe Ashton, Meera Syal and Juliet Stevenson.

In the letter, the Acting Your Age Campaign (AYAC) said women in the UK only have a “shelf life” on screen while their male colleagues have a “whole life”, and calls for “a parity pledge”, with equal representation in the UK between men and women over 45.

The letter states: “Ageism targeting women is an entrenched industry staple that is outdated, the Acting Your Age Campaign (AYAC) complains that women in the UK only have a “shelf life” on screen while their male colleagues have a “whole life”, harmful and neglects the millions of audience members who appreciate seeing women over 45 telling the stories of our lives.”

[From Yahoo]

This is a wonderful statement and I appreciate everyone who signed it. It’s also an ambitious pledge. Not only do they have to get the projects made, they have to get people to watch them. I’d be interested to see what kind of contingency plan they have for that. I’d support the content, of course. But I’m the right demographic. Sure, I’m tired of being reminded that I hold no value to society. I’d love a rom-com that doesn’t suggest it’s ridiculous that a person my age actually finds love easily.

Of course, there are many stories to tell that go beyond rom-coms and they can all include women of varying ages. I’m all for the idea behind the letter and the campaign. Actors should be able to play a variety of roles at any age. Currently, it’s only men who get that opportunity. Once a woman passes a certain age, she can only hope to play one of three archetypes. Letting more people play a wider variety of roles would expand story-telling overall. So instead of the 117th remake of Batman, maybe we could just see a 50 year-old woman doing something non-mom or non-trauma related. How novel.

Photo credit: Avalon Red

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

20 Responses to “British actors call for more women over 45 on screen”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Amy T says:

    The really depressing thing about this is that British actresses have – based on my unscientific evidence (eg: British TV shows and film) a longer shelf life and meatier roles than their US counterparts. I think about Brenda Bletlyn, Dames Judi Dench & Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith – and there are others. Don’t know if I could as quickly rattle off an equal list of US actresses with that kind of longevity and constant working track record.

    • LightPurple says:

      Very, very true. Leslie Manville seems to be popping up a great deal lately – more power to her! But even still, these women don’t get as much work or as interesting storylines as their male counterparts. Joan Allen seems to have fallen off the planet.

      • TIFFANY says:

        Leslie Manville went from a Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread ( which she should have won, by the by) , to fading.

        That ain’t right. The woman is too good at her job for that to happen.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      So true, AmyT!
      In USA women over 45 seem more ‘plasticky’ as well if compared to British actresses.

      I would also like to see more women over 45 in action roles (Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie seem the only 2 getting those roles) – more characters like Fennec Shand (the Mandalorian / book of Boba Fett) please!

    • Totorochan says:

      Yes! To add to your list, Olivia Colman, Emma Thompson, Imelda Staunton, Tilda Swinton, Helena Bonham Carter, Julie Walters, Vanessa Redgrave, Joanna Lumley…

  2. SarahCS says:

    Hurrah! I’m going to be 44 later this year and it’s great to know that people are fighting to keep future Sarah alive on-screen as right now unless you’re Helen Mirren or Maggie Smith it’s not really happening. There are so many stories to be told across all genres that can have people across the age spectrum in them, tell us a great story with great actors and we’ll watch.

  3. J. Ferber says:

    Amy T, you are right.

  4. Aurora says:

    I remain perplexed that there hasn’t been a Golden Girls reboot. GG was proof that older women could bring ratings in the U.S.

    • Danbury says:

      Grace and Frankie is GLORIOUS
      I highly recommend if you haven’t watched it

      • LightPurple says:

        And they’re not afraid to tackle the difficult issues of aging or sex after a certain age.

      • Amy T says:

        So true. And it’s given a host of other older actors – Millicent Martin (Joan-Margaret) came out of nowhere for me, and it’s a totally “where have you been all my life?!” situation. And even though he’s not an older woman, the same goes for Ernie Hudson, who played Jacob. More parts and storylines involving POC of all ages that don’t play into stereotypes is something that show has done in the best of ways.

    • North of Boston says:

      There was a great article some years ago by Linda Holmes of NPR, formerly of Television Without Pity, that addressed the lack of films centered around female characters or with more than one or even just one female main character.

      At the time she was living in DC and wanted to take her niece to the movies and there were almost zero options: she did the math and it was something crazy, like out of 650 showings within an hour of her, there were 25 showings of films centered on women and 25 showings of films with a balanced m/f lead roles and 600 centered entirely on a man or a group of male lead characters.

      And that was in a major metropolitan area, and she checked and in many places in the country, if you wanted to go see a film about women, there were zero options, none.

      And she pointed out that every time there was a successful project centered on female characters it was seen as a one off, not something the film industry could build on.

      “They put up Bridesmaids and we went. They put up Pitch Perfect and we went. They put up The Devil Wears Prada … and we went (And by we I do not mean just women, I mean we, the humans) and all of that lead right here” to zero or almost zero films centered on women.

      She noted many predicted Bridesmaids would flop, and when it didn’t it was considered an anomaly, a “surprise success” Hollywood didn’t think “how can we make more of these”, they focus on female led films that flopped (like *thousands* of male led films that flopped) and think “maybe we should just leave it to The Rock”

  5. North of Boston says:

    And in the UK, it seems there are already more possibilities of roles for women over 45 than there are other places eg the US. At least going by the tv shows that pop up on PBS and other places.
    Nicola Walker, Alex Kingston, Imelda Staunton, Anne Reid, Nina Sosanya, Sarah Lancashire, Suranne Jones and others in complex roles that likely wouldn’t exist in US television where mactors in their 20s and old dudes are the center of most shows.

    Still a massive gap in representation compared to male actors in the same age range though.

  6. J. Ferber says:

    The only older actress here who consistently gets roles is Meryl Streep. Where is Sigourney Weaver? Where is Julianne Moore? Where is Swoosie Kurtz? Where is Meg Ryan? Where is Michelle Pfeiffer? As much as I never liked her, where is Julia Roberts? They are no longer the leads in movies. How about Kathleen Turner? She’s older and has illness-related weight gain. We’ll never see HER again. Disgraceful.

    • Call Me Mabel says:

      I’m not sure these are the best examples. I literally see Julia Roberts’ face on the poster for Gaslight whenever I turn on my tv. Sigourney Weaver will be filming Avatar sequels for the next 30 years. Michelle Pfeiffer is part of the MCU.

    • outoftheshadows says:

      Kathleen Turner had a great turn (but a small part) as the salty and no BS ex wife on The Kominsky Method, and I was happy to see her there, but you are correct–these women are powerhouses. And vastly underemployed.

    • Alice says:

      Michelle Pfeiffer is doing amazing work as Betty Ford in the new series First Lady. She’s astonishingly good. Judy Greer who also doesn’t work enough plays her best friend.

      Viola Davis play Michelle Obama and Gillian Anderson is Eleanor Roosevelt so it’s a total feast.

      • Call Me Mabel says:

        I saw the first episode of that and loved Viola Davis, I also really appreciated the understated performance by the actress playing Laura Bush. I admit I laughed when Michelle Pfeiffer’s first scene as Betty Ford showed her drunk off her heels. Accurate, but also funny and a bit sad.

  7. K says:

    Hell yes to all of this. PS I love Leslie Manville. Her performance in Harlots was amazing.

  8. Valerie says:

    I love Juliet! I happened to read an article after this where Jane Horrocks said that directors need to cast a wider net when it comes to casting women. She feels that they tend to cast the same three people, Olivia Colman and Sarah Lancashire being two of them. I think this fits in with that. Just hire the hell out of older women. Stop showing me a gray Colin Firth with a bottled-brunette actor of 25 or 30. I want to see them looking glammed up, dressed down, and everything in between. Don’t just put them in old lady roles or bit parts for comic relief.