Eddie Marsan: “Art is the job of the privileged – you can’t write a script on a zero hours contract”

The Ray Donovan and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell actor has no interest in council estate dramas full of sterotypes

Eddie Marsan fears that the “privileged” background of many British TV screenwriters results in “clichéd writing”.


The British actor, who is set to appear in new BBC1 fantasy drama Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, says he tends to avoid what he calls the “Cockneys on coke” genre of ‘gritty’ drama because they don’t offer a realistic portrayal of working life.

“Art is the job of the privileged,” Marsan says in the latest issue of Radio Times magazine. “You can’t write a screenplay if you’ve been doing a zero hours contract. Which means that the people who write drama, the people who commission dramas and the people who direct dramas all come from a small circle of society.”

Marsan, who also stars in US drama Ray Donovan, adds that this inevitably results in “clichéd writing”.

“You’re not going to have something set on a council estate that explores all elements of human existence, the variety of experience inherent in any community,” he explains. “What you’ll have is some geezer on coke with a double-barrelled shotgun.”

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is a seven-part BBC1 fantasy drama based on the novel by Susanna Clarke. Marsan explains that his own experience growing up in Bethnal Green has helped him portray the socially awkward, “practicable magician” Mr Norrell.


The series begins on Sunday 17th May at 9pm on BBC1.

Read the full Eddie Marsan interview and much more in this week’s Radio Times, available in newsagents and on the Apple newsstand from Tuesday 12th May