herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Only posh actors can afford to make it big on TV, says Downton footman

ONE of the stars of hit drama Downton Abbey has made claims of a class war off screen.

Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas the footman in the ITV period drama, says rich actors have it easier.

Working class actors are being squeezed out of the profession by "posh" actors who can afford to live without a regular wage, he claims.

The actor said that those from privileged backgrounds have the "comfort blanket" of family wealth to fund their ambitions.

He likened the early years of an acting career to other professions in which only the middle-class can afford to do unpaid internships.

"You have to work for a year with no money. How on earth are you going to finance that?" he asked, adding that he had fought hard to make it as a "working class lad".

His comments coincide with a glut of so-called privileged actors appearing on TV.

Bricklayer

Eddie Redmayne (Birdsong), Dominic West (The Wire), Tom Hiddleston (War Horse), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Damien Lewis (Homeland) all come from a background of private schools.

James-Collier, raised by working class parents, claimed the acting profession is weighted in favour of the rich.

He spent time working as a bricklayer and packed frozen pasties in a factory to fund his acting dream.

"Because you've done the horrible jobs it gives you an even grittier determination to succeed," he said.

"If I had a comfort blanket, I wouldn't have been as passionate and driven. When you get there, you really do appreciate it because you know where you have been."

James-Collier's parents put him and his siblings through university.

Recalling his decision to become an actor, he said: "I'm a working class lad. So at 25 and with no-one in our family having any theatrical inclination, when I said, 'I'm going to scratch all that and become an actor', I may as well have said I was going to be a Premiership footballer for the chance I'd have.

"But my mum was always supportive as I think she always saw the spark in me. My dad gave me a speech about getting a real job in that 'deep Dad voice' but he supported me too and I stayed at home and tried my luck."

Michelle Dockery speaks in cut-glass tones as Lady Mary, but in real life she is the daughter of a former lorry driver and has said: "Lady Mary would never have talked to me -- I'd have been in service."

hnews@herald.ie

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