Thursday 21 February 2019

Jameela Jamil reveals why she turned down role of deaf woman

Jamil said the role should be offered to a “brilliant deaf woman”.

Jameela Jamil arrives at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jameela Jamil arrives at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jameela Jamil has revealed she turned down the role of a deaf woman (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jameela Jamil arrives at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
British actress Jameela Jamil arrives for the Warner Bros. and In Style 20th annual post Golden Globes party at the Oasis Courtyard of the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills on January 6, 2019. (Photo by Jean-Baptiste LACROIX / AFP)
Jameela Jamil stars in hit US sitcom The Good Place (Matt Crossick/PA)
Jameela Jamil was among the celebrities on the blue carpet (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jameela Jamil as Tahani, right, in The Good Place
Jameela Jamil said ‘it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take that role’ (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

By Keiran Southern, Press Association Los Angeles Correspondent

Jameela Jamil has revealed she turned down the role of a deaf woman because she did not want to deprive a disabled actress of a job.

The Good Place star, who was born partially deaf, said it “wouldn’t be appropriate” for her to have taken the part because she can now hear.

Jamil said the job offer was recent and that it should instead be given to “a brilliant deaf woman”.

She told the Press Association: “I said it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role. I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space.”

Jamil added: “I don’t want to be part of erasure.” Her comments come amid the ongoing debate over roles for minority groups in Hollywood.

The film industry has been criticised for giving LGBT roles to straight actors while Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston, who is able-bodied, this month faced criticism for playing a wheelchair-bound billionaire in his latest film The Upside.

Jameela Jamil as Tahani, right, in The Good Place
Jameela Jamil as Tahani, right, in The Good Place

Scarlett Johansson, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jack Whitehall are among those censured for accepting certain roles.

However Cate Blanchett believes actors should be able to play any role, and said: “I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience.”

Jamil said a “big change needs to happen” in the industry.

She said: “I think it’s a very tricky one. I can understand where people are coming from when it comes to suspending disbelief but I think the thing we should actually be fighting for is more roles for people with disabilities and more roles for LGBTQ so there aren’t just five a year and then those get taken by big names.

I said it wouldn't be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role Jameela Jamil

“That’s the thing all actors should be banding together in support of… is changing the situation where more scripts are being written where someone’s disability or someone’s sexuality is no longer the main theme of the film, it’s just part of their story but not the full story of the whole film.

“And that’s the big change that needs to happen. And then we won’t need to worry that we’re stealing the scarce amount of roles from other people.”

Jamil, 32, was born in London to an Indian father and Pakistani mother and moved to Los Angeles where she landed a role in hit US sitcom The Good Place, playing deceased philanthropist Tahani Al-Jamil.

The former Channel 4 and BBC presenter said it felt easier to make it in America, adding it was hard for women of colour to achieve a long-term career in the UK.

She said: “There is more diversity here for sure, and you don’t feel like you’re running out of time. You don’t feel like as you approach 30, you’re going to be sent off to a glue factory.

“While I love Britain and we have such great talent that emerges from there, it is so hard for a woman, and a woman of colour, to truly have a long-term career and that’s one thing that feels very different.

“It really is just opportunity. Other than that I think the output of Britain is brilliant and I love it.”

Jamil added: “But here it feels like it’s been an easier journey for me and that was unexpected because I was told I was too old, too fat and too ethnic to even try and come to Hollywood. But they’ve been very welcoming.”

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