Downton Abbey boss Julian Fellowes has slammed the depiction of black actors in TV. The writer said the first black face in the ITV period drama will instead be very much a positive role model.
Jazz singer Jack Ross, played by Gary Carr, makes his debut in the fourth series which hits our screens next month.
And Julian, 64, said: “I was very keen he should be a positive character. I feel this quite strongly. So many black characters in TV drama are victims and things are not going well for them. Even when they’re positive, even when they’re sympathetic, everything’s terrible. I feel for black young men and women. It’s very important that you see people on the screen who are not victims. This guy is not a victim. He is a very successful entertainer, a very positive guy, very attractive, and there’s no negative side, and that was important to me.”
— “Downton Abbey Creator Julian Fellows Slams Depiction of Black Actors on TV,” The Mirror UK, September 6, 2013
Hosted by Tami Winfrey Harris and Andrea Plaid
***TRIGGER WARNING: Rape***
Mad Men‘s season premiere got Tami and me–and guest ‘tabler Renee Martin–thinking about how much Mad Men is about aging: yes, about how we physically and emotionally age–and how different decades of life meant different things in, well, different decades–but also how institutions, like Sterling Cooper Draper Price, get on as the founders get on in age, and US society itself gets on with mediating changes, like the counterculture of hippies and wars with people of color. Conversation and spoilers after the jump.
Welcome to Retrolicious, a series of discussions and analyses about period dramas. First–get your pinkies up–editors Andrea Plaid and Tami Winfrey Harris explore the lives of English nobility, as presented on Downton Abbey, contrasted with 50s/60s cool of Mad Men. Oh…and spoilers are all over this post.
So, shall we?
Downton Abbey blew up Twitter timelines this year. We may never hear Laura Linney exclaim (per Scandal’s advertising) that it’s “the #1 show on Twitter” (!!!!), but it gets its fair share of love. Why?
Tami: “Why?” really is the question.
I love a good period drama. Mad Men and Downton Abbey stay on my must-watch list. (Though, after this last season, Downton’s days may be numbered.) But this idea of exploring period dramas came from the team at the R interrogating just that question.
Embedded in a lot of the love of Downton and shows like it, is a romanticizing of “good old days.” And though Downton can be frank about issues like gender inequity, it also (I think more so than, say, Mad Men) minimizes other oppressions, like that of gay people, in order to make characters appealing to modern sensibilities. The result is a lot of modern people sitting about yearning for what really were “bad old days” for all but a privileged few, because of the pretty dresses and dashing gents in white tie.
Andrea: But I think this “why” is more specific than just interrogating period dramas, though we’ll get to that question later on. This particular “why” is “why Downton Abbey over other Masterpiece Classic shows, or even other PBS shows?” I mean, are we going to tweet about the Jeremy Piven-led costume drama Mr. Selfridge? Maybe…and I’m sure PBS is hoping we will.
Tami: Jeremy Piven? Eeechh…no.
Andrea: I know, I know. He plays some pretty gross characters. See, I think Piven was a sexy MF circa Ellen…with his chest full of hair. I hold out hope against hope that he’ll grow it back. But I digress…
So, there’s something about Abbey specifically that gathers people around screens and carrying on on my timeline.
And after slogging through three seasons of this show, I’m still at a loss. I’m still suffering boredom from watching this show. Maybe I’ve lost my taste for period dramas?…No, because I’m totally down for The King’s Speech, Elizabeth, Mansfield Park, and old Masterpiece Theatre (before they re-branded themselves to Masterpiece Classic) joints like The Buccaneers. And, if they’re still on Netflix, I want to check out a couple more Masterpiece Theatre classics: Brideshead Revisited and Upstairs, Downstairs. But Downton Abbey gives me a case of the “mehs,” though it’s a beautifully shot show.
By Andrea Plaid
I need this to be as much as an official record as to what may happen as a Crush post.
See, Senior Editor Tami Winfrey Harris and I are planning an upcoming Table For Two about Downton Abbey and period pieces in general. (The hold-up is my fault: I’m slogging through all three seasons. And I do mean “slogging,” like it’s a this-is-boring-the-hell-out-of-me-and-there-are-no-hawt-ass-people-on-this-show-to-at-least-alleviate-the-tedium struggle. I’m doing this for you, Racializens. Remember that, hear?) And I mentioned the dearth of sexy on the show to Tami. She contends that Thomas (Rob James-Collier) is all pale and dark hair and angular cheekbones and bad boy. And I’m, like, naw, Thomas got that Crispin Glover coloring I can’t get with (and looks like Glover’s socially well-adjusted younger brother). There are just no Colin Firths on this show, I whined. (And I said that as I don’t really think of Firth as spank-bank material–again, just me–but I know he turns the Masterpiece crowd all the way on.) We started trading sexy-in-an-unconventional-looking-way white dudes’ names (Benedict Cumberbatch for Tami; Adrien Brody for me) and hairy-chested white dudes (Hugh Jackman and Scandal‘s Tony Goldwyn for me; neither of them for Tami, though she ‘fessed up that she’s down for the plush upper torso). We happily concluded that we’d “never throw down for a man.”
Then, just to make sure that she and I were solid on the “never throw down for a man” guideline, I ran this week’s Crush by her. Do y’all know what she said?
“I’d cut you for him!”
I was all, like, “Can we at least get out our calendars and arrange days or something?”
So, yeah…Russell Wong.