Working Class Hero Christopher Eccleston Takes on the Class Ceiling in the British Acting Scene
Yesterday, in my celebrity post on Gerard Butler and James McAvoy, I talked about the class problem in the British culture scene and how it impedes even privileged white dudes like the aforementioned gentlemen by merit of them not being posh, English or privately educated. This is nothing new, but it’s still pretty uncommon to hear major stars talk so candidly about it. How do you keep up the illusion of a meritocracy when you expose the lie or the uneven playing field? To put this into context, studies showed that 42% of British winners of BAFTAs were privately educated, despite only 7% of all Brits attending fee paying schools.
So praise be to Christopher Eccleston, the criminally underrated 9th Doctor and generally wonderful actor of critical and commercial acclaim. A working class guy from Langworthy who was influenced by Ken Loach, Eccleston is certainly a major star, but he’s seldom credited as such, particularly when compared to some of his more elite contemporaries. That’s something he’s all too aware of, and in an interview with Sky News on the subject of the lack of diversity in British arts (given via Skype), he broke down the disadvantages even someone like him is put at by the ‘boys club’ of acting in the UK.
Christopher Eccleston says his working class roots put him at a disadvantage compared to the "boys' club" of public school-educated actors pic.twitter.com/olDuTY0SSa— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 10, 2017
He’s open about the fact that being white and male helps him, but still doesn’t get him to the level of the privately educated boys who have all the right connections. In an earlier interview with the newspaper, he lamented the lack of working class actors and how visibility matters in culture along lines of race, class, gender and sexuality. He also takes swing at noted institutions like the Royal Shakespeare Company for exacerbating this situation.
‘The situation is not improving. It’s getting worse and worse. All areas of the arts are becoming ivory towers. Due to student debt, we are being excluded. It’s always been a policy of the Conservative government and party to destroy working class identity. If you prevent them from having a cultural voice which is what’s happening, they achieve that. They hate us, they want to destroy us, so we’re being ruled out of having a voice. You can’t get into drama school if you’re from a council estate. You can’t afford it. It was different for me in the eighties and look what I’ve achieved. Look what Sean Bean’s achieved. Look what Maxine Peake’s achieved. “But there’s not going to be the numbers in 20 years, and it’s the same for people of colour who come from that background. We’re moving towards a white culture, but we live in a multi-cultural society’
Art for the masses, strike down barriers of class and privilege and down with the posh boys!
And watch Eccleston in The Leftovers, for the love of all that is right.
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