It’s a lot tougher for female TV stars trying to maintain a career past their younger years than it is for their male counterparts.
That’s a sentiment that three well known names express independently in interviews in this week’s issue of Radio Times magazine.
“When you’re old, you have to be clever and thin,” says Anne Robinson, who is returning as the host of the Weakest Link for a special Children In Need edition.
“I never have breakfast. I’m permanently on a diet. I’m like Victoria Beckham – you know, when she’s really, really, really hungry, she has a piece of lettuce… in order to be on television when you’re old, you have to be clever and thin.”
Matthew Macfadyen, who is starring in a new BBC dramatisation of EM Forster’s Howards End, and is married to fellow actor Keeley Hawes, says there are fewer roles for women (a trend Hawes has bucked) and rues the “wasteland” many encounter during their middle years.
“There are just fewer parts for women. And also there’s a weird thing with women where initially you’re the ingénue, and then there’s a wasteland, and then you’re Hedda Gabler. Guys don’t have that; they float through,” says Macfadyen, adding that the much discussed gender pay gap certainly extends to actors on TV.
“Men are by and large paid more than women. I know this from Keeley, that the sort of excuse they’ll use is, ‘Well, he’s done a few American things.’ And you think, well, no. It’s not to do with that. It’s cobblers.”
And in our back page interview, Ashley Jensen – star of Kay Mellor’s new drama Love, Lies and Records – agrees with Robinson that, in the UK especially, women in TV are under increased pressure to stay youthful.
”I think there’s more pressure over here now than I ever felt over there [in Hollywood],” says Jensen. “It’s one of these twisted things that’s become the norm, which is that women are not allowed to grow old. It’s becoming more normal to see a face that looks like a cross between a hard-boiled egg and a cat.”