Former 'Doctor Who' Highlights Class Inequality in U.K. Film, TV Industry

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Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston says that actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne are not to blame, but "it would be difficult for someone like me to come through" now.

Christopher Eccleston has added his view on the ongoing class debate in British acting, suggesting that an actor like himself from a working-class background would find it "difficult" to break through now. 

In an interview with the Radio Times magazine, excerpts of which were reprinted in The Guardian, Eccleston, who played the ninth Doctor in Doctor Who, said he felt that today's dominance of actors with privileged, or posh, backgrounds was becoming more prevalent and threatened to make the industry more bland. 

“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,” he said. “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.”

Eccleston added: “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.”

Eccleston revealed that his dramatic interpretation of the Doctor was also an attempt to break down some class-based stereotypes. “I wanted to move him away from RP [received pronunciation] for the first time, because we shouldn’t make a correlation between intellect and accent, although that still needs addressing," he said. 

The actor, who stars in Sky Atlantic's Fortitude and also had roles in Hollywood films including Thor: The Dark World, said that he saw the lack of diversity across the entertainment industry as troubling, and not just as a class thing. 

“It’s not just about the working class. There’s not enough writing for women or people of color," said Eccleston, admitting that white males like himself dominated television roles in the U.K. He added: “It frustrates me when they insist on doing all-male Shakespearean productions – a wonderful intellectual exercise, maybe, but it’s outrageous, because it’s putting a lot of women out of work.”

Eccleston is just the latest actor to speak out about the dominance of actors from privileged and private school backgrounds in the U.K. James McAvoy also spoke up about the trend and the adverse affects it will have on the industry in Britain, as well as British society, echoing views expressed by David Morrissey, Jimmy McGovern and Julie Walters, among others.