Kaya Scodelario and Michaela Coel have spoken out about the trauma that female actors still experience in the entertainment industry, and the fear and anxiety that comes with breaking the silence around them.
We’ve seen a number of landmark feats happen for women in the entertainment industry over the last couple of weeks.
Chloé Zhao made Oscars history after being named the first woman of colour and the second woman ever to win the coveted Best Director gong. And Emerald Fennell became the first woman to take home the trophy for Best Original Screenplay in 13 years. Finally, it seemed, the battle against sexism in TV and film was making progress.
But the stories that some female actors have been sharing on Twitter today (30 April 2020) prove that there is still such a long way to go in calling out the insidious sexism they face, despite living in a post-#MeToo movement world.
Actors have been responding to a report in The Guardian about Bafta-winning actor and producer Noel Clarke, who has been accused of groping, harassment and bullying by 20 women. The report includes details about women attending naked auditions for roles.
Clarke has denied the allegations in a response, saying: “In a 20-year career, I have put inclusivity and diversity at the forefront of my work and never had a complaint made against me. If anyone who has worked with me has ever felt uncomfortable or disrespected, I sincerely apologise. I vehemently deny any sexual misconduct or wrongdoing and intend to defend myself against these false allegations.”
The news prompted actor Kaya Scodelario to speak out about her own experience of an audition that required her to “take her clothes off and that’s all”.
“Luckily I have an agent who swiftly said there was no way that was going to happen. This was a big movie. A big director. A big ‘opportunity’,” Scodelario tweeted.
She continued: “Different casting, between me and another actress. Both worked very hard to impress this notoriously difficult director, auditioned multiple times. He emailed our agents ‘whoever agrees to go nude [first] gets the job’ The movie had no nudity in it. He just wanted two see who’d say yes.”
Scodelario explained that there are “many, many” actors who are unprotected as they don’t all have “caring agents” who will protect them: “They will assume that it is normal for an actresses worth to be measured by the body they have. By the amount of skin they are willing to show. We have been conditioned to believe this.”
Explaining an important point about the fear that actors still have post-#MeToo, Scodelario said: “You know what’s fucked? Im going to wake up in the morning with anxiety about tweeting. Despite the fact that I haven’t named names. I’m still going to feel scared. The women who come forward openly are so brave. I am in awe of you all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Michaela Coel, the award-winning creator of I May Destroy You, has also shared a statement about the “mental hurdles a Black woman must overcome” to speak out about these types of experiences.
She said: “I am here to offer great support for the 20 brave women who have come forward; those who have shared their identities with us, but also those who have preferred to use an alias; the mental hurdles a Black woman must overcome to do such a thing as reveal their identity within a narrative of rape abuse or bullying at the hands of someone within our own community can sometimes be too much.”
“Speaking out about these incidents takes a lot of strength because some call them ‘grey areas’. They are however far from grey,” she continued. “These behaviours are unprofessional, violent, and can destroy a person’s perception of themselves, their place in the world and their career irreparably. I have shared to show solidarity, to express my belief in them and to stand with them in their indignation.”
Comedian London Hughes, who stars in a series of Netflix specials, has also shared that she was once “told” about one of the experiences outlined in the Guardian report. “I just read a story in this article that I honestly remember being told by an actor friend around 10 years ago,” she wrote in a tweet. “I was sickened by it then, and I’m sickened by it now. Believe women.”
Regarding the specific allegations around Clarke, Bafta has said: “In light of the allegations of serious misconduct regarding Noel Clarke in The Guardian this evening, BAFTA has taken the decision to suspend his membership and the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award immediately and until further notice.”
But the responses to the report open much wider conversations about the fact that, despite the progress that seems to have been made – like the award wins we saw at the Oscars – women are still living through traumatic experiences and the battle of fear and anxiety that comes with speaking out about them.
If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, seek confidential help and support with Rape Crisis.