The Scarlet Pimpernel with Emile Clarke, Dan Wheeler, Phillipa Hogg, Laura Matthews and Dominic Allen.

Emile Clarke: A comment on representation in the arts

Emile Clarke is a writer, actor  and dreamer of riotous dreams; the one who makes us laugh, click, cry, breathless and sigh. From screen ‘Two A.M.’ to stage to print, Emile is now preparing for this summer’s Shakespeare Undone!, as well as Love the Life You Live…Live the Life You Love. A magic realist staging exploring race, class, gender, identity, and our historical place within it.

'Emile' by Nick Dolding. Winner of the 2018 Portraiture Award and the UK National Award for the Sony World Photography competition.
‘Emile’ by Nick Dolding. Winner of the 2018 Portraiture Award and the UK National Award for the Sony World Photography competition.

The slightly awkward black guy

I always hated the idea of being type cast. When I graduated from my training the industry had a very limited view of the roles I could play; roles that still didn’t do much for POC by way of progress and roles I’d rarely get anyway. I’d walk into castings and feel the casting director side-eyeing the ‘slightly awkward black guy’ getting ready to read for ‘urban gangster’ or ‘drug dealer’.

But, here we are 10 paces into 2019 and times have changed. I didn’t once have to explain that high societal POC existed in the 1800s during our run of ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ this Christmas. I was also delighted to be in a show the Christmas before where the love interest just happens to be same sex and it bore no reference.

Films like ‘The Favourite’ are blowing the Bechdale test out of the water and characters like Eric Effiong from ‘Sex Education’ are *hand clap emoji* BREAKING *hand clap emoji* BARRIERS *hand clap emoji* DOWN!! Don’t even get me started on non-binary Susie Putnam from Netflix’s ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’!

Emile Clarke as Maz in Carol Leeming's 'Love the Life You Live.... Live the Life You Love'.
Emile Clarke as Maz in Carol Leeming’s ‘Love the Life You Live…. Live the Life You Love’.

Playing to my strengths

From the Oscars to advertising, representation in storytelling is winning accolades and this gives us, as creatives, the opportunity to be more authentic. The more diversity in storytelling the less we have to conform to rigid archetypes to get the job and that changes the game.

As creatives we need to remind ourselves what makes us great as individuals. I’ve had the honour of learning from artists and creatives who know how limiting labels can be, so they don’t wear them and when they can’t take them off, they own that shit. They wear them inside out, ripped with extra bits sewn on and then? Then they just exist in spaces doing their thang. I believe that’s how we got to this point and why we need to own the crap out of our own stories, particularly the parts that help our society become more equal and diverse.

Playing to my strengths is no longer as limiting because I’m more than a ‘slightly awkward black guy’ in the eyes of gate keepers now but we need to remind them of what our strengths are.

Emile Clarke
Emile Clarke photographed by Jennifer Evans. 

I constantly remind myself to celebrate my individuality, especially where it really counts, in my art, in interviews and in auditions where those gate keepers reside. I am always inspired by the others I see putting the unconventional parts of themselves into their work so I challenge you to be truthful and do the same. Imma be me, so youma be you.

You can see Emile in Shakespeare Undone! on site at the SS Great Britain Bristol 7-10 July 2019 and at the Cutty Sark in Greenwich 12-13 July 2019. As well as on stage in Love the Life You Live… Live the Life You Love by Carol Leeming MBE. It will be on at Curve Leicester later in the year so keep checking www.daretodiva.org/projects/ and www.curveonline.co.uk/

About Emile Clarke

Twitter: @EmileJClarke
Instagram: @EmileJClarke
LinkedIn: Emile Clarke

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