The BBC has been accused of failing to give lesser-known actors the chance to star in its dramas because roles are being filtered “through selected agents”.
While the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant and Trevor Eve seem to be ever-present, the actors’ union Equity says the corporation needs to widen opportunities and be more transparent about casting processes.
The union is set for a showdown with the BBC to encourage “openness and fairness” following a motion passed at its conference last week. The actors at the meeting believed that as a publicly funded body, the BBC should be more transparent and open to a more diverse casting pool.
Presenting the motion, actor Daniel Page said the BBC had “substantial resources” paid for by the public: “Equity members should be able to know what jobs are available.” He said that opportunities should not be limited, with “casting breakdowns sent to selected agents for a minority of members who are able to pay for top drama schools”. He added: “There are really talented people out there who aren't with the top agents, so they are not getting the information or those opportunities.”
The biggest agencies in the UK include United Agents, which represents Olivia Colman and Peter Capaldi, and Independent Talent Group, whose clients include Trevor Eve and David Tennant. Other major agencies include William Morris Endeavor and Conway van Gelder Grant.
Many casting directors use Spotlight Link, an online resource that sends requests to the agencies they select.
The union wants to meet the BBC to discuss how to improve the situation. “There is a method of getting casting information out, but generally they’re closed off to casting directors’ favourite agents or actors,” said Martin Brown, assistant general secretary of Equity. “We’re asking whether that can be opened up to everyone in the acting profession.”
Peter Barnes, a secretary of the Co-operative Personal Management Association which represents 30 agencies, suggested it may not be feasible to open up the process because of the practicality of dealing with thousands more applications. “They probably don’t want to get inundated,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “We do seek to be diverse and cast from the widest pool of actors possible and we would welcome a conversation with Equity about how to further our reach in the future.”
Equity is yet to approach the BBC about a meeting to discuss these issues.