NEILSON’S COLUMN: Are familiar faces on our TV screens causing confusion?

Michael Neilson
Michael Neilson

When working away from home, as actors often do, we have to find suitable (sometimes unsuitable) accommodation for the duration of the job.

While performing in Kettering this Christmas, I stayed with a retired gentleman who had spare room.

As I was doing two (and sometimes three shows) a day, I was out by eight in the morning and not home until nine or ten at night. Most nights, when I returned, my landlord would usually be sitting in the living room watching a crime drama – Morse, Miss Marple, Maigret, or maybe Midsomer Murders.

Why do so many start with M...for Murder maybe?

Anyway, during one of our discussions, he remarked how fed up he was with seeing the same actors in so many TV dramas. He explained to me that it made watching them a confusing affair.

For example, if an actor in a crime drama was playing a character suspected of being a murderer, he couldn’t enjoy it if that same actor had, for instance, played a police officer in another drama.

He told me there was a lot of ‘crossing over’ of actors, particularly in crime dramas. He asked me why he kept seeing the same faces on TV when there were obviously lots of other actors available.

I explained that apart from the fact that casting directors cast actors who have a particular style or ability, in similar types of dramas, a lot the actors seen in a particular drama or TV series, may have the same agent. This means that if a leading actor is wanted for a role, their agent can often get some of their other clients into the same drama. Do that a few times and there you have it; the same set of actors, with the same set of agents working for the same set of directors and producers in the same set of dramas.

On the plus side, you get a group of talented actors turning in consistently good performances. On the minus side, you get the same group of actors playing similar roles in similar dramas, which some of the public may get a little bored watching.

Whether this balance is a good one, or a bad one, I don’t know, but maybe producers, directors and casting directors need to broaden their horizons slightly when thinking about who to cast.

I am, of course, available via my agent...

Michael Neilson is a Horsham-based actor, singer, dancer and writer, with more than thirty years of professional experience in film, TV, theatre, radio and voice work. Follow him on Twitter @michael_neilson.

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