Equity launches Manifesto demanding radical change to casting

Equity’s Manifesto for Casting sets out the union’s vision of how the casting process can be made clearer, fairer and more inclusive for everyone. Equity is asking the industry to agree to a range of practical measures including:

• Increasing diversity and equality on stage, screen, radio and onlne
• Recognising the caring responsibilities of performers
• Audition venues being accessible to all
• Performers being told when they are not given a role
• Local talent given an opportunity to audition
• A reduction in the number of recalls

The launch event took place on Thursday, 22 June at the Ivy Club, London. It featured speeches from Tracy Brabin (MP, actor and writer), Clare Cooper Marshall (Head of Casting and Contracts for ITV Studios) and Emmanuel Kojo (actor and Equity Councillor).

Equity’s General Secretary Christine Payne said: “Our industries will only thrive by attracting and retaining professional talent, regardless of background or circumstances, to meet the ever growing demands for audio and audio-visual creative content on stage, on screen, online and on demand. This manifesto will be used by the union to seek the changes that will ensure the continued success of our creative industries.”

Please download the Manifesto.

High profile performers already backing the Manifesto include Julie Walters, Mark Rylance, Maxine Peake, Patrick Stewart, Mat Fraser, Tanya Moodie, David Morrissey and Rebecca Root.

Julie Walters said: “I stand with Equity: we need there to be opportunities for performers living all over Britain. Any production should make a concerted effort to audition local performers. Talent is not concentrated in the UK - it’s not confined to a single city. Excellent actors are to be found in all the regions.”

Patrick Stewart said: “Diversity in casting is critical for the proper survival and progress of our profession, as well as the exposure of such diversity to our audiences. Communication, consideration and respect are all part of a happy casting process, no matter who the artist is, his or her background, or experience.”

Mark Rylance said: “It’s great that so many people in our industry recognise that we need to open up opportunities for working class performers, but we need to remember that to truly make performance more socially diverse requires more than the will to do so. We need practical measures, like the ones suggested in Equity’s Manifesto for Casting, to make sure there is real change and that everyone – no matter their postcode – has the chance to pursue a career in performance.”

Mat Fraser said: “There’s no way you can get a role if you can’t even get into the audition room. Deaf and Disabled actors have to fight so hard to make it in this industry, and it’s ridiculous that they should be expected to struggle just to be seen. Equity’s demand for accessible spaces is essential for making sure everyone can take part in our industry.”

Tanya Moodie said: “A vibrant industry is one where every player has the opportunity to manifest their fullest creative potential. I've witnessed diverse casting blossom over the years. There's still work to do. Casting of disabled and ethnically diverse actors needn't be a political statement, but rather something that happens as a matter of course."

Maxine Peake said: “It is excellent to see Equity championing fantastic talent from all across the UK – productions don’t always have to go to the capital to find their leads, with so many wonderful performers living all around the country. Moving to London shouldn’t have to be a pre-requisite for a successful performer.”

Julie Hesmonhalgh said: "Please, don’t bar parents and carers from the audition room. I really didn’t stop being an actor when I became a parent, and my fellow performers don’t stop being performers because they have a sick parent, or partner or other caring responsibilities."

Vicky McClure said: "There are plenty of rags-to-riches stories on stage and screen, but the reality is it's incredibly difficult for performers from less privileged backgrounds to get an opportunity in this business. We need a casting process that recognises the many barriers people have to overcome to get into the audition room."

Rebecca Root said: “Equity’s Manifesto for Casting recognises the struggles faced by actors coming from all minority backgrounds, and I would love to see its policies adopted by all casting directors. It would be wonderful for trans actors to be considered for roles previously reserved solely for cis performers.”

David Morrissey said: “Actors shouldn’t have to pay to play. When it comes to casting, talent – not the state of your bank account – should be the only factor worth consideration. The Manifesto for Casting calls on everyone involved in the casting process to consider the cost to performers of attending auditions.”