Sound bites: Juliet Stevenson has called on TV producers to widen the opportunities available to older actresses to the same extent as men, whom she says are “still acting their socks off”.

Juliet Stevenson plays Oracle in the BBC fantasy drama Atlantis. Photo Credit: BBC

Juliet Stevenson plays Oracle in the BBC fantasy drama Atlantis. Photo Credit: BBC

I have many favorite actresses (and by that I mean MANY), but I’ll refrain from naming them all as it could take up the better part of my day. However, Juliet Stevenson most definitely falls in that category. I have always admired her humanitarianism, tenacity and her fight to give visibility to mature actresses. It is both sad and rather shameful how the arts, media, Hollywood, etc., tend to completely disregard actresses and artists that aren’t 16 years old. This obsession with youth culture and young beauty is completely dismissive (and worse) of all the women that may not fall into that (those) categories. Personally, I’d MUCH rather watch the amazing Helena Bonham Carter play (my FIRST FAVORITE LADY) Elizabeth Taylor, than Lindsay Lohan (…Who actually cast that?…). I’d rather see Phylicia Rashad, Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Judi Dench, Angela Basset, Penelope Wilton, Helen Mirren, Viola Davis, Imelda Staunton, Jessica Lang, Celia Imrie, Alfred Woodard, Marcia Gay Harden, Jane Fonda, Barbara Flynn, Shohreh Aghdashloo (see I told you this list was endless), ANYDAY in ANYTHING, then some untalented, untrained non-experienced newbie that was given a starring role because her body was firm enough, her eyes blue enough, her hair blonde enough, her…Yeah, you get the idea. And not to say ALL older actresses are the best (though, I tend to think they are), and ALL young actresses aren’t talented; that is far beyond what I’m saying–give me a Gabourey Sidibe, Marion Cotillard, Amy Adams, Raven-Symoné, Emily Blunt, Keke Palmer, Jurnee Smollett, Rooney Mara, Juno Temple, Saoirse Ronan (OK obviously this list is some kind of mix) anytime. But for me, especially as someone that has acted as a casting director, it was rare to ever see a script asking for “an older actress”. And that I have a major problem with; that, I have always found quite disheartening, and something that needs to change faster than immediately. What is it about the visual culture industry’s inability to properly represent older actresses (I hate that phrase, “older”)? Why do we let this amazing talent sit, unused, not wanted? Who is making these decisions?! This, is why I write. This is why all of my screenplays and stories center on women, have parts for mature actresses and require them to be the lead. Hopefully, one day, (and sooner rather than later), more starring roles for more experience actresses will emerge.



Juliet Stevenson: Give middle-aged actresses a chance

By Rhiannon Williams

The actress, 56, will play Oracle in BBC fantasy drama Atlantis, which starts next week. She has condemned the decision of TV producers and commissioning editors’ to limit the opportunities available to older women, adding: “We need to let them get beyond 50”.

“I am very lucky but there are thousands of others between the ages of 45 and 65 who are not working because there is nothing left for them to do.

“At the same time the roles for women of a certain age are very rarely leads. They are nice roles but often they are not carrying the weight of the story or the narrative. They are someone’s wife, someone’s mother or someone’s grandmother.”

In the interview with the Mail on Sunday, Stevenson said she’d conducted a great deal of research before undertaking her role as Oracle. The character is a celebrated and revered figure who is able to see into the future.

“The producers didn’t want a lot of gyrating and craziness so I had to find a way of keeping her still while giving the sense of going in and out of a trance, she said.

“I joined the Royal Anthropological Institute where they keep amazing documentary films about people who are shamans or who have been possessed by gods.”

Stevenson was nominated for a BAFTA in 2011 for her role in Accused, and has also starred in Bend It Like Beckham, Law and Order and Nicholas Nickleby.

The series also stars Jack Donnely as protagonist Jason, and Mark Addy and Robert Emms as his companions Hercules and Pythagoras.

(Via The Telegraph)