Maxine Peake says Northern actors face discrimination for accents

Maxine Peake claims Northern actors still face discrimination for their accents and calls out Downton Abbey for continuing to cast performers in ‘downstairs’ roles

  • The Bolton-born actress, 45, cited Downton Abbey as an example of a show where Northerners take on the ‘downstairs’ roles
  • She said: ‘People cast you for your accent. You are only one personality if you’re from the North, you’re not particularly complex’
  • Star recalled audition for a barrister role where the director asked her what she was going to do about her accent as the part required her to appear ‘educated’ 

Maxine Peake has claimed Northern actors still face discrimination for their accents and end up being cast as servants because they are seen as uneducated.

Speaking on poet laureate Simon Armitage’s BBC podcast, the Bolton-born actress, 45, cited Downton Abbey as an example of a show where Northerners take on the ‘downstairs’ roles and admitted she had been ‘typecast’ in her career.

Maxine, who starred in the BBC legal drama Silk – also recalled an audition for the role of a barrister where the director asked her what she was going to do about her strong accent as the part required her to appear ‘educated’.

Fury: Maxine Peake has claimed Northern actors still face discrimination for their accents and end up being cast as servants because they are seen as uneducated (pictured May 2019)

The star, who lived in London for 10 years before moving back to Manchester in 2009, said: ‘People cast you for your accent. You are only one personality if you’re from the North, you’re not particularly complex, you’re a Northerner and sometimes that’s used as a character description.

‘As a young actress it was good time girls, always having a bunk up in a cupboard, because we’re all brassy and we like a good time.

Discussing the barrister role she was auditioning for, she said: ‘You’re put in a socio-economic bracket as well.

‘[The director said] ‘what are you going to do about your accent because she’s educated?’ And that wasn’t the first time I’d had that conversation.

Claim: The Bolton-born actress, 45, cited Downton Abbey as an example of a show where Northerners take on the ‘downstairs’ roles (above Joanne Froggatt, who hails from North Yorkshire, as maid Anna Bates in the show)

‘I went, “I went to RADA”. I remember thinking I couldn’t be a successful barrister and have a northern accent.’

The star also called out hit ITV drama Downton Abbey for continuing to cast Northerners in stereotypical servant roles. 

She said: ‘It still goes on, I mean…Downton.’    

Peake – who first found fame as Twinkle in Victoria Wood’s sitcom dinnerladies – said that when she started her career she believed her accent would help her win parts in television dramas.

What? Maxine, who starred in the BBC legal drama Silk – also recalled an audition for the role of a barrister where the director asked her what she was going to do about her strong accent as the part required her to appear ‘educated’

She said: It still goes on, I mean…Downton’ (above Manchester-born Robert James Collier as under-butler Thomas Barrow)

But the actress soon discovered that it led to her being typecast.

She said: ‘[After dinnerladies] I was still, for three theatre jobs, cast as maids in various guises.

‘I remember being at the National Theatre and we all used to laugh, it was the Northerners and the Irish all together going, “So what maid are you and what servant are you?”

‘I’ve got lots of friends from Ireland because we always played the downstairs parts.

Start: Peake – who first found fame as Twinkle in Victoria Wood’s sitcom dinnerladies – said that when she started her career she believed her accent would help her win parts in television dramas

‘I remember talking to someone not so long ago about it and they said, ‘That’s ridiculous’ but we’re only talking late 90, early 2000s.’

The star, an ardent supporter of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at both of the last elections also revealed she had turned down lucrative voiceover work for advertisements featuring companies she has ethical objections to – including banks, supermarkets and fast food chains.

She portrayed the Moors murderer Myra Hindley in the 2006 ITV drama See No Evil.

Acclaimed: She portrayed the Moors murderer Myra Hindley in the 2006 ITV drama See No Evil (above with Joanne Froggatt)

 

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