Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…
Hari Bairn is in his 20s and since graduating from drama school has worked in the West End, Off-West End and on a number of tours
Emily Cohen is in her 20s and works in theatre and TV as well as running her own theatre company. She is an associate member of a national company
Albert Parker is in his 60s and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV
John Pepper is 32 and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National and in radio, television and film
Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on new plays, and toured both nationally and internationally
Peter Quince is a 72-year-old actor working in theatre and television
Emily This makes me want to ram my head into a wall repeatedly.
John It simply comes down to racism. There needs to be more diversity on the panel.
Albert This topic is a little misguided. Surely it should be why isn’t there more diversity in film?
John Different question, Albert. This question is relevant because of recent events.
Peter If few films are being directed by women, for example, they are less likely to be represented at awards. The diversity needs to start much earlier than the awards ceremony.
Emily I agree, but that isn’t the case right now.
John There were a lot of brilliant award-worthy films directed by women that didn’t get a nod.
Albert Yes, but if there’s a lack of diversity in the production process then there is obviously going to be less choice to make the shortlists as diverse as they should be. It’s easy for panels to pick white males when there are more of them leading films.
Beryl Establishments are hard to fracture.
Jon There’s some truth in that, but we still have, for example, female directors making banner films and not getting nominated. Only five women have ever been nominated for the best director Oscar, and one has won.
Albert Perhaps that one made the best film.
Emily Yeah, I just don’t buy that, there are plenty of films good enough to be nominated.
Peter But we still need to give women and minorities more opportunities.
Jon Albert, I don’t buy the “perhaps it was the best film” argument either. I don’t think The Hurt Locker is the only ever film with a female director that has been better than ones with male ones.
John Clearly the people on the panels are male and white and like films that represent them – conscious or unconscious bias.
Emily Yes, and it’s so boring. Do better.
Hari The Laurence Fox Question Time thing was one of the most infuriating things I’ve ever seen, and very indicative of a wider systemic problem in every industry including ours.
Jon As Hari says, this is a wider systemic problem, which chimes with what Albert said about a need for more diversity in film in the first place.
Beryl Maybe this is the best thing about awards… I don’t believe in them, but maybe they are helping us to see what a bigoted industry we inhabit?
Albert Our industry reflects society. And we should be using the opportunity to lead.
Jon A look back at the last few years of Olivier nominations would suggest theatre is handling this a wee bit better – recently at least. Although I’m reminded of that report about the percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnicity actors in the West End. The research was done while Dreamgirls, Hamilton and Tina Turner the Musical were all on, and the figures would have looked very different otherwise.
Albert But do we want quotas? So many women have to be nominated etc?
Hari The thing about quotas is that they’re a good way in the short-term to normalise things
John I think that’s right.
Jon Hari, I agree. And quotas don’t have to be official.
Albert But then people wouldn’t know whether they were nominated on merit, or because the shortlist needed another woman on it.
Hari They don’t know that anyway. Awards are so political.
Emily There should be a quota on the panel. And then from that I imagine things would change naturally, or I would hope so.
Albert That’s a better idea Emily.
Emily Panels of all white men should be banned. I’d love that.
Albert Laurence Fox would say that’s a bit racist, Emily.
Jon It’s about narrative. Say “panels shouldn’t be all white men” and people will agree, but if you say “ban panels of all white men” then the Foxes of this world start squealing.
Emily I don’t care. Let them squeal. We’re only putting the ban in place because they consistently let us down.
Peter I said no immediately, but the Labour Party struggled to increase female representation in parliament until they had all-women shortlists.
Jon You would think the academy, however the voting was done, would be capable of noticing there were no women on the list before making a final decision.
John There needs to be a push so that under-represented people see themselves on stage or screen and think: ‘I can do that’.
Peter At one time, the assumption was that a character with a disability would be played by a non-disabled actor. But now there would be a question about whether the role should be played by someone with a disability.
Jon We should mention that there are other issues in play, such as genre snobbery. Lupita Nyong’o was stunning in Us, but horror films don’t get nominations. And you win more awards for tragedy than comedy.
Hari That’s true, but then there’s no excuse for Greta Gerwig’s Oscar snub.
Beryl Awards are bullshit.
John That is the take away from this discussion Beryl. They are total bullshit.
Albert Not to the winners.
Beryl Why is art made? Why do people write? Why do painters paint? I don’t think it’s to win accolades from panels of men.
Jon Dryden Taylor is an actor, writer and editor of The Green Room. If you work in theatre and would like to join in the conversation, email email@example.com