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185 German actors have taken the opportunity to come out together and have penned an open letter to the country’s entertainment industry calling for more diversity on screen.
“We are actors who identify as lesbian, gay, bi, trans*, queer, inter and non-binary, amongst many other things,” it begins.
“Until now, we haven’t been able to be open about our private lives without fearing professional consequences. All too often, many of us have been cautioned – be it by managers, casting agents, colleagues, producers, editors, directors, etc. – to keep quiet about our sexual orientations and gender identities to avoid jeopardizing our careers.
“We are putting an end to this – once and for all!
“We have decided to come together with a public statement to achieve visibility.”
The manifesto continues, “Until now, we’ve been told that if we revealed certain facets of our identities, namely our sexual and gender identities, we would suddenly lose the ability to portray certain characters and relationships. As if the knowledge of who we are in our private lives would somehow invalidate our ability to convincingly embody roles for the audience.
“Nothing could be further from the truth.
“We are actors. We don’t have to be the characters we portray. We act as if – that is the very quintessence of our job.”
They call for greater diversity on screen, saying audiences are hungry for different perspectives.
“The experience of the last few years has shown that the viewing habits for film and TV series are expanding and changing. There are far more stories and perspectives being watched and celebrated than merely those of the white heterosexual middle class. Diversity has long been a lived social reality in Germany. Sadly, this fact is still hardly reflected in our cultural narratives.
“Our society has long been ready. The viewers are ready.
“Our industry should stand for togetherness and reflect society in all of its diversity.”
Among those to sign the letter are Babylon Berlin star Udo Samel, and Karin Hanczewski, and Mark Waschke from No. 1 German TV drama, Tatort.
To accompany the publication of the manifesto, Sueddeutsche Zeitung ran an article about how it came to be created, including interviews with some of the signatories.
“I wanted to attend an awards show and walk the red carpet with the woman I love, but I was strongly advised against it, warned it would ruin my career,” says actress Emma Bading, who appeared in the Emmy-nominated TV movie, Play, last year.
The group said straight white men dominated the German TV industry – both on and off-screen. They suggest parts could be adapted to reflect greater diversity, but it would be better to also showcase stories from different people.
“Of course I want to play characters that were originally written white or hetero,” said Black, German stage actor Lamin Leroy Gibba [below]. “At the same time, I ask: Where are the Black and queer characters standing in the center of their own stories?”
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In the U.S., great advances have been made to increase diversity on screen in recent years, with award-winning dramas such as Pose and even the likes of Hallmark producing gay holiday movies.
However, LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD noted a slight drop in LGBTQ representation on screen in its most recent annual report. It noted, “9.1% of series regular characters scheduled to appear on broadcast scripted primetime television this season are LGBTQ – a decrease of one percentage point from last year’s record-high percentage of 10.2 percent.”
It put some of this fall down to the Covid pandemic suspending production on several shows.
Although 9.1% is an encouraging figure in terms of LGBTQ representation on screen in the U.S., many openly LGBTQ performers – in the US, Germany, and elsewhere – still believe they face additional barriers in being cast as straight or cisgender characters.