Wednesday 17 January 2018

Cush Jumbo: Britain failing to recognise its diverse acting talent

The Good Wife star accused Britain of “pulling the plug” on its most talented actors.

Cush Jumbo (Chris J Ratclife/PA)
Cush Jumbo (Chris J Ratclife/PA)

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

The Good Fight star Cush Jumbo has claimed Britain is losing some of its most talented actors because of a refusal to embrace diversity in television and film.

The actress, 31, believes the UK is producing some of the world’s most formidable stars but a failure to offer them work means they end up being offered roles in the United States.

Speaking at an evidence session for the Labour Party’s inquiry into access and diversity in the performing arts, Jumbo accused drama schools of squeezing out budding actors from a diverse or working class background by failing to provide enough support.

Cush Jumbo (Ian West/PA Wire)

She told Labour MPs Gloria de Piero and Tracy Brabin: “I didn’t go to America, I didn’t run to America, I didn’t even ask for America, I just took a plane there and suddenly everyone was telling me you’re so talented would you like 52 jobs.”

Jumbo accused Britain of “pulling the plug” on its talent, adding: “I would like nothing more than to be working on television and in film in this country.

“I’m just going to go over to Amazon because they will (cast me in a lead role) and they pay for it. Then they offer you another one and another one and because I write as well there’s opportunities to write there as well.

“And it becomes less and less attractive to come back because you’re coming back to nothing.

“So in terms of there being a drain it would be nice for it to not be portrayed as something we’re all running to or escaping from.”

(Anthony Devlin/PA)

The London-born actress claimed black British stars were winning roles in the US over their American counterparts because “we are better”.

“The reason I’m doing so well is our training, our work ethic, the fact we arrive on time, we learn our lines, we are polite, all of that stuff comes from the way we were trained at drama school … the way we approach theatre in this country.

“It’s something to be proud of.

“Why are we not trying to keep that here and encourage that and tell the whole world that we are the best rather than letting people slip through the net?”

(Ian West/PA)

Comparing her time working on The Good Wife and its sequel The Good Fight to her role in ITV’s Vera, she described sticking out “like a sore thumb” on the set of the British drama.

“I was the only person of colour.

“You take the cast picture at the end of the season and you look back at it and you’re the one sticking out brown face in a group of people and it hurts,” she said.

Turning her attention to the next wave of British talent she said students from diverse backgrounds were quitting drama school “because of how they are being treated” and warned of a “big hole” in the diverse talent coming through over the next 10 years because of funding cuts.

The actress said she had met one budding actor who had been “psychologically bullied” after complaining to tutors about a fellow student being blacked up as an aborigine in a play.

Press Association

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