Research Intern

The vast majority of British people would have positive or neutral feelings about a BME Doctor Who – but there is stronger resistance to male roles becoming female

From David Oyelowo’s first Black Henry VI in 2000 to Maxine Peake’s take on Hamlet last year, TV and theatre have seen a number of Black Minority Ethnic (BME) or female actors take on roles traditionally played by white men. British actress Zainab Jah was the first Black women to play Hamlet  in the US, while the next James Bond continues to be a hot topic ­– current Bond Daniel Craig suggests the spy could be played by a Black or female actor, but Pierce Brosnan has said Bond could not be female.

New YouGov research reveals that when British people are asked how they would feel if six popular TV characters were played by BME actors they are most positive about a BME Doctor Who (44% positive, 10% negative). A BME James Bond comes next for positivity (39% positive, 19% negative), boding well for potential Bond Idris Elba.

For all six of the roles, women are more positive than men about having them played by BME actors. The gap in positivity is at least 13 points for any of the roles, while the majority of women say they'd feel positive about a BME Doctor Who (51% compared to 37% of men) and there is a gap of 18 points for James Bond (48% of women would feel positive about a BME Bond compared to 30% of men).

For white characters in historical settings there is more negativity, however. Around a third say they would feel negative about a BME Mr. Darcy (31%), Sherlock Holmes (33%) or Robin Hood (34%).

And when people are asked how they would feel if the roles were played by women, there is even more negativity. While 36% say they would feel positively about a female Doctor Who, the majority say they would have negative feelings about a female Sherlock Holmes (53%), James Bond (54%) or Robin Hood (53%) – in every case, women are around equally as negative as men.

See the full poll results

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