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Class act: Are posh actors given more praise?

By Feedcarpet / Published on Tuesday, 18 Apr 2017 10:58 AM / No Comments / 21 views

Line Of Duty star Daniel Mays said the upper echelons of acting are in currently in vogue, but is he right in thinking so?

“That’s the way of the world at the moment,” said the Essex native, whose education started in a private academy of fine arts in London before he moved to the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

“In RADA back in the day they would endeavour to posh you up, make you speak received pronunciation so when you went out into the industry, you’d get more work that way,” he added.

Mays is hardly the first British star to come out against the elitism among performing artists, criticising so-called independent schools such as Eton and Harrow.

Indian Summers' star Julie Walters was a recent critic of Britain's class system
Indian Summers’ star Julie Walters was a recent critic of Britain’s class system

X-Men star James McAvoy gave an interview a few years ago on how “posh” private school actors are ruining the business, turning acting into a “purely elite thing”.

Last year it was time for Julie Walters, who bet the middle-class grip on the acting world will trigger “another revolution”.

She said: “Working class drama comes out of people being unhappy and angry with the unfairness of life. And I think that will come again.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Harry Potter star Michael Gambon, who told Radio Times “the more Etonians the better” if it adds to the “geniuses” in the industry.

The cast of The Night Manager was recently criticised for being "eminent dragons" from Oxford
The cast of The Night Manager was recently criticised for being schooled as Oxford dragons

But if it’s true that several BAFTA winners and LA resident Brits have spawned from the privilege of elite education, there are many who have not.

Actors like Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Star Wars’ rising star John Boyega or Michael Fassbender all made their way up from a working class upbringing, and have projected their careers way beyond the likes of Eton-schooled Dominic West, Hugh Laurie, Tom Hollander or Damian Lewis.

Even some who may now be perceived as posh, like Dame Helen Mirren, was actually the daughter of a civil servant, whose father arrived in London from Russia to drive a cab.

The same can be said about Gary Oldman, a son of a welder who, although ostracised by the Golden Globes and largely ignored by the Oscars, has been awarded by the British Academy.

And the list continues.

Stephen Graham won a SAG award for his portrayal of Al Capone in the HBO show Boardwalk Empire
Stephen Graham won a SAG award for his portrayal of Al Capone in the HBO show Boardwalk Empire

Studies do, however, show almost half of Britain’s award-winning actors attended a private or grammar school at some point.

To date, 23 BAFTA winners – best actor or actress – have come from independent schools, but only two did in the last seven years.

Mays criticised the industry for not recognising actors like Stephen Graham, whose performance in This Is England left the Line Of Duty star “hit for six”.

But Graham starred in two HBO shows in the last four years, one of which earned him a Screen Actors Guild Award.

That Britain has a class problem which needs addressing is largely undisputed, but to claim that its stars aren’t praised due to their background seems a bit of a stretch.

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