Helen McCrory: Stop making female roles too reliant on sexuality

Award-winning actress Helen McCrory has told other female stars to stop making roles heavily reliant on sexuality, in order to redress the imbalance of prestige parts between older men and women.

The 51-year-old – whose recent TV credits include dramas Quiz and Peaky Blinders – said she was “very, very lucky” but there remained a gender-based imbalance in the industry.

McCrory suggested women should “look to ourselves” to remedy the problem and reduce the emphasis on physical attractiveness.

Helen McCrory
Helen McCrory has told her fellow actresses not to make roles too reliant on sexual attractiveness (Isabel Infantes/PA)

During an appearance on Desert Island Discs, she said: “I’m very, very lucky that I’m offered good parts in British television and stuff. I think you are finding writing that’s serving women fantastically and you’re getting older women playing fantastic parts, but it’s not an equal playing field.

“And what you do as an actress is you make sure that when you get a part you don’t make it dependent on your sexuality because that’s not going to make it easier for the women behind you.”

Harry Potter star McCrory said having a character whose most important property was sexual attractiveness was unhelpful for other women.

“Because as an actress you know that you’ll have put filters on, you’ll have had makeup on, you’ll have had lighting… I don’t look like I look like on screen in life,” she said.

“Nobody looks like they look like on screen in life. But that’s one way to try and redress that balance. Look to ourselves.”

McCrory also recalled meeting her husband, actor Damian Lewis, for the first time while working together in 2003 on the play Five Gold Rings.

“Damian’s naughty and I’ve always loved my naughty boys,” she said of Lewis, the father of her two children.

She said the couple had a “bumpy courtship” adding: “I don’t want to say too many nice things because he’s going to be roaring with laughter at the radio and tease me.”

And asked by Desert Island Discs host Lauren Laverne if she believed she would work with Lewis again, McCrory revealed something was in the pipeline.

“We’re looking to do something together at the moment actually,” she said.

“You’ve got to be very careful though, you don’t want everybody thinking ‘Oh my God, here we go’.

“I’d like to work with him not because he’s my husband or because I know him but because I like his acting.”

Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11am and on BBC Sounds.

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