Stereotyping? Or “Niche-ing?” How one TV writer got shoved into a box

Thanks as much to history as to contemporary globalization, life and culture in the U.S. and the U.K. have many things in common. Unfortunately, this is one of them:

by Ian Burrell

The lead writer of a BBC television series which gave a break to the Homeland actor David Harewood has claimed that it wrecked her career after she became typecast as a “black writer.”

Avril Russell said she had been unemployed for almost a decade after writing the BBC2 series Babyfather, which was billed as a black male version of Sex And The City. She had previously enjoyed a varied career writing for mainstream TV dramas including The Bill and Silent Witness, and wrote short stories for television.

Babyfather, which was based on a novel by Patrick Augustus and hailed as a breakthrough for black British drama in 2001 and 2002, featured Harewood as one of four men attempting to cope with changing sexual politics. Russell expected it to be pivotal to her career but instead work dried up. She said: “I fell into a deep, dark pigeonhole. The series was considered a landmark and my agents and colleagues expected bigger and better things for me. Instead, the phone stopped ringing.”

Her case comes as the actor Lenny Henry is due to appear before a House of Commons select committee this month to give evidence on the lack of diversity in television.

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