‘Like Skydiving without a Parachute’: How Class Origin Shapes Occupational Trajectories in British Acting
OPEN Sociology | 11 Oct 2017
S Friedman, D O'Brien and D Laurison
There is currently widespread concern that access to, and success within, the British acting profession is increasingly dominated by those from privileged class origins. This article seeks to empirically interrogate this claim using data on actors from the Great British Class Survey (N = 404) and 47 qualitative interviews. First, survey data demonstrate that actors from working-class origins are significantly underrepresented within the profession. Second, they indicate that even when those from working-class origins do enter the profession they do not have access to the same economic, cultural and social capital as those from privileged backgrounds. Third, and most significantly, qualitative interviews reveal how these capitals shape the way actors can respond to shared occupational challenges. In particular we demonstrate the profound occupational advantages afforded to actors who can draw upon familial economic resources, legitimate embodied markers of class origin (such as Received Pronunciation) and a favourable typecasting.
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