Yes Minister star Derek Fowlds has claimed there is a “pecking order” for roles among older actors, and that casting is dominated by a small group of well-known performers.
Fowlds, who is known for his role as private secretary Bernard Woolley in the political sitcom, said available parts for stage and screen decreased as actors get older, at which point an “A-team” of individuals get prioritised for roles.
As reported by the Times, Fowlds – who was giving a talk at the Henley Literary Festival – said: “When you get to our age, my contemporaries are Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Johnny Hurt, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, David Jason. If a part comes up, they’ll get the roles first. There’s a pecking order. They’re all knights. All I wanted was an O level.”
He added: “To be an actor you’ve got to be between the ages of 18 and 55. That’s where the bulk of the work is. You do get older parts, so if Tom Courtenay turns down a role then I might get one.”
Last year, Hampstead Theatre founder James Roose-Evans set up a new theatre company, Frontier Theatre, to address the lack of opportunities for older actors.
At the time, he said: “There’s an enormous bank of talent that we have. After 60 they become invisible, particularly actresses, and what are we doing about it?”
In an interview with The Stage, Vanities: The Musical star Lizzy Connolly said there needed to be more roles for women over the age of 50.