Lies, Damned Lies and Acting

I’ve got one for you. I was asked to do a series, BBC 8-parter and I was in 3 Eps of the latter half- perhaps 5, 7 and 8, if memory serves. It was a nice enough role, a baddie, but ok.. What the Hell. It was a messy, disorganised shoot with an absent director; at one point I was riding around with another actor, camera strapped to the car on the outside, filming the two of us inside.

We were meant to be following the 1st AD in the car in front, standing through the sunroof waving a flag, for reasons best known to himself. But, arriving at a junction, the driver pulled out into fast-moving traffic, with no possibility to follow. By the time I’d made the turn, there was no sign of the 1st.. they’d not even pulled over to wait for us, simply driven off. So we switched on the camera and rode around, running the scene a few times for safety and then I headed back to base.

But I digress… I’m on set, having already shot a fair amount, when I find out through casual conversation in the Hair & Make-Up wagon that my character appears in Episode 1. I swear blue in the face that I don’t…

Nonplussed, I make further enquiries, finally tracking down a copy of the script.. I’d only been given 5, 6 and 8. Well, what d’ya know? It turns out, in Ep 1, my character is hiding in a park with a paper bag over his head, to jump this girl, drag her screaming into the bushes and rape her.

But No One Told Me.

I mean, seriously.

They got a ‘Supporting Artist’ to play that bit. They KNEW I wouldn’t take the part. The company themselves were ashamed of the role, of the part they’d commissioned and agreed to. So ashamed that they hoodwinked, they actively lied to get the part filled, employing an unidentifiable Extra to do the dirty deed. Complicit, with a few notable exceptions, top to bottom.

Can you imagine what would have gone down if that’d happened to a known actor? Seriously. Heads would have rolled. Lawsuits. Probably make the news. As I said in my previous post, as an actor of colour, you really have to think twice about what you’re portraying, when there’s such a dearth of work out there anyway. Don’t actors have every right to take care of their careers? To make a choice about how they are portrayed? I mean, isn’t the central point about rape all about consent? Giving consent?

But me, a two-bit Asian actor? Who cared?

Yeah. No ‘protection’, no comeback.

I sacked my agent over that one, but the only one hurting was me.

Lenny Henry –