Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes has discussed the issue of diversity casting.
Fellowes’ hit period drama was itself criticised for a lack of diversity amongst its characters on screen.
Only one non-white recurring character was featured in Downton‘s entire six year run.
Death in Paradise actor Gary Carr joined the cast in 2013 as jazz musician Jack Ross, who briefly dated Lady Rose in Season 4.
The show’s Yorkshire setting admittedly made realistic diverse casting a challenge for the period, but scenes were often set during characters’ trips to London, where the population was significantly more ethnically diverse in the 1920s than Yorkshire.
Of course, with Britain a colonial power at the time, there would also have been the issue that in reality many of the show’s characters, both above and below stairs, would have displayed attitudes that would be problematic and uncomfortable viewing by today’s standards.
Whether or not this is an excuse for avoiding a more diverse range of characters is debatable, but you can certainly see why a writer would take the easy option and just avoid the matter in order to keep their characters likeable.
Speaking at the Olivier Awards, where his stage show School of Rock was nominated for best new musical, Downton creator Julian Fellows told Press Association: “This business of diversity casting is a big issue.”
He added: “I think we are moving forward and I’m pleased about that, but I hope to see more.”
Fellowes also praised hit Broadway musical Hamilton as an example of “reinventing” theatre.
Downton Abbey: The Complete Collection is available now. Buy the box set on Amazon here.