02/04/2015 08:58 BST | Updated 01/06/2015 06:59 BST

Juliet Stevenson Speaks Out on Ageism in the Acting Industry


Juliet Stevenson for The Act For Change Project

A little over eight months ago the actress Indira Varma, an ardent supporter of our campaign, Act For Change, suggested that we explore the dearth of opportunities available for women in our profession over the age of fifty. In the work we carried out we've since identified that the cut off point for a woman's career often begins as early as their late thirties.

Our efforts to be inclusive of everyone is something Act For Change have always tried our utmost to uphold, so we vowed to do something about it and last month launched our #WomenOfACertainAge campaign.

Juliet Stevenson was the first person I got in touch with. Having heard her previously talk so eloquently on the subject in press interviews, I was intrigued by what more she might have to offer, so I reached out to her via a mutual friend.

When I raised the prospect of interviewing Juliet at an Act For Change meeting three months previously, a committee member raised a concern. "Won't people think, well, what has she got to moan about?". I disagreed.

Act For Change has a loyal support base. A wide range of people. This is something we've founded ourselves upon. Whether you're a jobbing actor, a paying audience member, a film star or Joe public, our concerns all stem from the same thing. A frustration with how things currently are.

When Juliet agreed, and the day finally arrived, we tottered off to her house in one of the suburbs of London. It was pissing it down with rain and we arrived drenched. It was only when I stood there inside her kitchen that I realised I had no real reason to be there. I wasn't interviewing her, that task had fallen upon the shoulders of my Act For Change colleague, Stephanie Street, a friend of Juliet's. The subject matter is extremely close to Stephanie's heart, particularly as she faces the same issues our sub-campaign aims to dissect. On hand to film our interview were the brilliant Alex Rice and Geoff Breton. I had no function whatsoever, but felt I had a duty to my sixteen year old self who sat watching Truly Madly Deeply on repeat.

During the interview, both on and off camera, Stevenson was a heavenly tidal of rage, enthusiasm, intelligence and common sense. In her own unique and unabashed way, her thoughts and perceptions set a precedent for the #WomenOfACertainAge campaign. So many factors come into play when speaking about ageism and gender equality, and like all those brilliant interviewees who followed her, she not only brought considerable time, wisdom and experience to the debate, but also something incredibly humane: A genuine concern for her fellow actor.

When you see this video you will see how deep rooted the conversation is. The argument of lack of representation of women in the arts isn't just about whether you're working, but also the quality and scope of opportunity offered to as you age. Simply put, Stevenson is speaking out for her fellow actresses (and actors!) who are unable to for fear of making their situation worse. Remember, you are only seeing the people who agreed to take part in our campaign! A significant number turned us down. An indication of the level of fear still involved in speaking out.

We actively encourage other public figures to follow suit. Our profession is at a real turning point. It needs us to continue having these conversations, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us! Perhaps, only then, the producers, writers, casting directors and commissioners will readily start to engage with the issue. We must flip the existing system of casting on its head by noticing the infinite possibilities that are out there, rather than denying what is. Women ageing, wonderfully, marvellously, and without apology.

The Act For Change Project will be announcing some very exciting news over the coming week. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep updated.