Look: We were big fans of Christopher Eccleston way back in his Doctor Who days, and I came to love him even more after his remarkable role in The Leftovers. In recent years, however, he’s gotten political, taking on the class ceiling among British actors. He’s good people, and he’s not afraid to admit when he made a mistake in selling out, as he told The Guardian recently:
“Working on something like GI Joe was horrendous,” he says, emphasising that the responsibility was his and not anyone else’s. “I just wanted to cut my throat every day. And Thor? Just a gun in your mouth. Gone in 60 Seconds was a good experience. Nic Cage is a gentleman and fantastic actor. But GI Joe and Thor were … I really paid for being a whore those times.”
Candid! And good to know that Nic Cage is a decent guy.
But the thing is, Eccleston only ended up in America acting because apparently, he was blacklisted by the BBC after he left Doctor Who.
“What happened around Doctor Who almost destroyed my career,” he says. “I gave them a hit show and I left with dignity and then they put me on a blacklist. I was carrying my own insecurities as it was something I had never done before and then I was abandoned, vilified in the tabloid press and blacklisted. I was told by my agent at the time: ‘The BBC regime is against you. You’re going to have to get out of the country and wait for regime change.’ So I went away to America and I kept on working because that’s what my parents instilled in me.”
None of this, frankly, still makes any sense to me. He signed on for one season. He did his one season. Why was the BBC so angry? He actually expanded on this a few years ago, acknowledging he left the series over “politics.”
“I left Doctor Who because I could not get along with the senior people. I left because of politics. I did not see eye-to-eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.”
More specifically, it goes back to class warfare. Russell T. Davies, at the time, had didn’t want Eccleston to use a RP [received pronunciation] accent. Being an American, I have no idea what that is, but for Eccelston, it all goes back to class politics:
I still feel insecure, like a lot of my working-class contemporaries. I had a sense acting wasn’t for me because I’m not educated. I was a skinny, awkward-looking bugger with an accent, as I still am. ‘British society has always been based on inequality, particularly culturally. I’ve lived with it, but it’s much more pronounced now, and it would be difficult for someone like me to come through.
‘You can’t blame Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch and others taking their opportunities but it will lead to a milky, anodyne culture. To an extent that’s already happened.
‘I confess I don’t watch much film or television drama but I’m aware of the predominance of white, male roles. It’s not just about the working class. There’ s not enough writing for women or people of colour.’
Eccelston made that statement several years ago, before the really strong push for more diversity in hiring. The man has always been ahead of the curve.