Equity Inclusive Casting Policy

Women, black, Asian and minority ethnic, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), and deaf and disabled artists have long experienced and continue to experience discrimination across the industry.

An increasingly diverse audience both wants and expects to see and hear itself reflected authentically in the media and its expectations are even higher of publicly funded theatres and broadcasters. Moreover, productions that go beyond a tick-box approach to diversity have demonstrated wide appeal to all audiences and delivered real commercial success.

Equity believes that inclusive casting is crucial to achieve both a balanced portrayal of women, black, Asian and minority ethnic, LGBT and Deaf and disabled people across the industry - providing both a level playing field for our members - and a realistic and authentic mirror reflection of UK audiences.

Equity calls for greater incidental portrayal – where the artist’s personal characteristics are incidental to the role – providing real opportunities to increase diversity on stage and screen

  • Equity believes that artists from diverse backgrounds (on the basis of gender, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation) should be considered more seriously for any role - and not confined solely to those written with their own personal characteristics in mind.
  • Equity is concerned that casting of people from diverse backgrounds on screen and on stage continues to be tokenistic and calls for greater representation in leading roles.
  • Equity believes that productions should ensure they audition a diverse list of artists for every role
  • Equity asks productions to make proper use of the occupational requirement provisions in the Equality Act 2010[1] - and to consider using the ‘tie-breaker’ provisions in the Equality Act 2010[2] - when casting any role

Equity calls for greater care and consideration by productions when casting roles where the artist’s personal characteristics are relevant to the role:

  • Make proper use of the occupational requirement provisions in the Equality Act 2010[3] when casting roles written for a character with a diverse background – ensuring that more artists reflect the character’s characteristics where it is relevant.
  • Equity recognises that non-disabled artists playing disabled characters, is widely considered to be offensive to disabled people. Equity understands that on occasion, it may not be possible to cast a disabled artist but calls on productions to follow these principles in every instance:
  1. Actively seek an artist whose characteristics reflect that of the role by:
  • Considering every avenue to cast a disabled actor.
  • Considering whether a disabled character’s impairment has to be specified – or whether the role can be played with an actor with a different impairment.
  • Considering using special effects, make-up or other artifice if there are elements of the portrayal which require non-disability (which a non-disabled actor would employ to play a disabled character)
  1. If that is not possible, be prepared to demonstrate the extent of the search undertaken and;
  2. Consult with people with the relevant impairment to enhance the portrayal overall.

Equity calls for all productions to play their part in improving equality practice across the industry:

  • Equity believes that all parts of the industry should develop clear, specific and measurable objectives to promote diversity among casts, audiences and staff.
  • Equity calls for equality monitoring of performers, stage management and creative teams and for that data to be made publicly available.
  • Equity calls for the industry to set targets for casting artists from diverse backgrounds.
  • Equity reminds productions of their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 – and the legal risk they expose themselves to by:
  • Asking artists about their personal characteristics during auditions
  • Failing to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled artists to take part in auditions

 Endorsed by the Equity Council, June 2015

[1] Schedule 9, Part 1, Para. 1, Equality Act 2010) setting out the employer’s legal entitlement to require

an artist to have a particular protected characteristic if it is an occupational requirement and a

proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The legal explanatory notes make reference to:

The need for authenticity and realism might require someone of a particular race, sex or age for

acting roles”

 

[2] Section 159, Equality Act 2010 – permitting under representation of a protected characteristic to be

taken into account when deciding who to recruit where candidates are as qualified as each other

 

[3] Schedule 9, Part 1, Para. 1, Equality Act 2010) (as above)