Childless actresses cannot play mothers convincingly because they don't understand the emotions involved, according to Anne Reid.
The 75-year-old, veteran of Coronation Street, Dinnerladies and Upstairs Downstairs, said women who don't have children lack authenticity on screen.
"People will shoot me for saying this but I see people playing mothers who haven't had a child and - I don't know - I think you kind of have to have been there. Because it's a gut thing, isn't it?" she said.
Actresses who have portrayed mothers on screen despite having no children of their own include Dame Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for her role in The Queen, and Jennifer Aniston, who played a mother in her last film, The Switch.
Reid took a career break to raise her son, Peter. She received her first Bafta nomination in 2004, aged 68, for The Mother. The role required her to strip naked for love scenes with Daniel Craig, an actor 33 years her junior.
She said: "We had a laugh, I loved doing it. I was a bit nervous about looking like a plonker, but when I saw it I thought that, another time, I could give it more sexual welly."