Emily Watson: TV’s golden age has been a lifesaver for older women


Emily Watson has said the golden age of TV has been a “lifesaver” for older women and offered an alternative to the “ageist, sexist old pig” that is Hollywood.

Critics have hailed shows from The Sopranos and The Wire to House Of Cards and Game Of Thrones as evidence of the small screen’s golden age.

Watson, whose recent TV roles include Ulyana Khomyuk in Chernobyl and Marmee in the 2017 BBC adaption of Little Women, said the medium also encouraged more diverse stories.

Investitures at Buckingham Palace
Investitures at Buckingham Palace

The 53-year-old said: “For actresses of my age, TV has been a lifesaver, because of the renaissance of writing in TV, because suddenly there are really great leading interesting roles.

“And really just the audience for TV is properly diverse and wants to see everything represented, and that’s beginning to happen.

“Whereas when I started out my career in film and there was very much a sense that it was going to be diminishing returns.

“You get into your late 30s, early 40s, you’d be playing mums and then it just petered out.

“And sort of – Hollywood is an ageist, sexist old pig, it just is, and the world of TV is very, very different to that.”

Graham Norton Show
Graham Norton Show

But Watson, who appears in the upcoming immersive TV drama The Third Day, warned of some pitfalls.

She said: “I think there are dangers in it, because I think returning television doesn’t naturally come to an end – stories that should have died, don’t die, and then become overblown and preposterous.

“That’s getting less so, and I think because actors have more power in that sort of situation now, they’re going: ‘I don’t want to sign up for seven years. Let’s do a few months and see how we get on.’”

The Third Day, which also stars Jude Law and Naomie Harris, tells three, stand-alone but interconnected stories, not only on screen but also in a “live, immersive event”.

The first part, Summer, follows Sam (Law), a man who is drawn to a mysterious island off the British coast where he encounters a group of islanders set on preserving their traditions at any cost.

The Third Day launches on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Wednesday September 15.