Sunday, 6 December 2015
Like for like
There's been a lot of controversy over this question recently. Activists objected strongly to transgender roles being taken by non-transgender actors. Flynn in "Breaking Bad", however, who has cerebral palsy, was played by Roy Frank Mitte, who himself has cerebral palsy. Yet nobody thought it strange that the two lesbians in "Carol" were portrayed by heterosexual women.
On the one hand, it's argued that the whole point of acting is to depict someone different from yourself, and it's your acting ability that makes the person convincing. The opposing view says that however good an actor you are, you can never be as convincing or as natural as the real thing - someone who is actually disabled, lesbian, or whatever.
My thinking is that you should use actors with the same trait as the character, as they do tend to be more authentic. But how far do you take it? You could apply the principle so widely it becomes not only absurd but impractical. Should you insist on a an actor who's a genuine anorexic, or alcoholic, or rapist, or hit-and-run driver? The casting process would be a nightmare. And suppose you wanted someone who was anorexic and a hit-and-run driver? The mind boggles.
On second thoughts, maybe you should just ask actors to do what they're supposed to do - act. Why spoil their fun?
Pic: transgender actor Rebecca Root