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“David Tennant is right: female representation is just common sense”

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Christobel Hastings
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David Tennant is no stranger to showing his support for women’s issues. And in a new interview ahead of the release of his new drama, Deadwater Fell, the actor expertly summarised the importance of gender equality on the sets of TV shows.

When it comes to representation on screen, just about everyone is now familiar with the aspirational soundbite “if you can see it, you can be it”. But despite diversity now fully becoming mainstream conversation, actual progress on switching up our onscreen characters remains frustratingly slow, with women making up 45% of all television speaking roles in 2017-2018. 

But behind the camera, the representation gap is even more glaring. According to the latest Boxed In report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, female representation behind the scenes is worryingly scarce. The report, which examined the dramas, comedies, and reality series that played on broadcast, cable, and streaming platforms during the most recent television season, found that women accounted for 31% of all creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and directors of photography. Depressingly, that figure is the highest percentage in the study’s history, rising from 28% in 2016-2017. 

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Naturally, when tackling gender inequalities on our screens, it makes a huge difference having women in power positions behind the scenes. Just as in any industry, inclusivity stems from taking into consideration a wide range of viewpoints, and without women operating in key creative roles, we are less likely to see equal representation on our screens improve, much less benefit from their insight when shaping our stories. It’s common sense, and happily, David Tennant can always be relied upon to reinforce it. 

In an interview with STV News, the actor, who is currently starring in a new four-part thriller Deadwater Fell, underlined the importance of having a gender balance on the sets of TV shows.

“This was a very happy set and I dare say the fact that so many of the creators were women was a huge plus, especially when you’re telling a story that’s quite sensitive like this,” the actor said when asked if there was a different feel to the set due to the vision of series writer and creator Daisy Coulam.

“I think there are nuances to this. One doesn’t want to gender stereotype, but maybe there’s something of an emotional nuance that would have been lost in male hands.”

David Tennant has called gender parity on set "common sense"

The Doctor Who and Broadchurch star, who also serves an executive producer on the new series, went on to explain that he believes an equal split among men and women increases the calibre of the work.

“If I have any say in it, I always like there to be a gender split on set because I think it makes people work better,” he continued. 

“I think a bunch of blokes can be a bit of an echo chamber. But increasingly that’s the case, it’s quite rare now that you find a completely male set. It’s common sense, isn’t it?”

It’s not the first time Tennant has spoken out in support of gender parity, or championed women’s issues in wider society. At this year’s #March4Women rally, which celebrates campaigners who have worked to improve the lives of girls and women in the UK, he read out the testimony of John Clough MBE, an anti-domestic violence campaigner whose daughter Jane was killed by her partner in 2010.

In an exclusive interview with Stylist.co.uk earlier in the year, Tennant was keen to reiterate his belief that everyone should be vocal in their support of women’s issues.

“I just think it’s common sense,” he said when asked why about his refreshingly candid attitude to talking about feminist issues in the public domain. “I mean, I think it goes beyond any sort of political response. It’s just the natural way of things and the natural way to be.”

David Tennant and Georgia Moffett
David Tennant and Georgia Moffett announced the arrival of their fifth child in October

Tennant, who welcomed his fifth child with wife Georgia Moffett in October, also explained that his interpretation of feminism is primarily concerned with challenging our own beliefs, expectations and behaviours of women that we have assimilated from childhood. 

“As a father of daughters, [world issues are] something that one wants to be keenly aware of, but it’s that constant examination of programming that you’ve received yourself,” he says. “I think all of us men – and women – can be guilty of having expectations of the world.

“We just have to make sure that we’re challenging them, just to make sure that we’re all in a levelled playing field. That’s all it should be about.”

Ultimately, Tennant’s continued support of representation and women’s issues shows the importance of the role men have to play in making gender equality a reality. Words wield considerable power, and we should celebrate the fact that he continues to boldly use his voice and platform to advocate for a more inclusive society. As Tennant so aptly notes, gender equality is better for all of us. 

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