Does Australian drama have a shortage of male actors past the age of 40?
According to actor Caroline Gillmer (pictured, left), the women far outweigh the men.
Despite this, there are more senior and middle-aged roles written for men than women. The numbers don’t stack up.
The Bed of Roses actor tells TV Tonight there are plenty of younger male actors, but casting directors know there is a problem in finding good actors once the age-40 barrier is passed.
Gillmer, who has appeared in Underbelly, The Brides of Christ, Cyclone Tracy, All The Rivers Run, Prisoner, Halifax FP, Neighbours and MDA, says many actors have dropped out of the game by the time they reach their 40s.
“A lot of people get to a point when they don’t want to be in the business,” she says. “It’s not that the roles dry up, they actually have had their fill. It’s a tough life being in this industry and you have to be mentally and physically fit. But most importantly your heart has to be in it.
“You have to want to be challenged by the degree of difficulty and in this job the degree of difficulty is extremely high for women especially if they’ve already had children or want to have children.
“So a lot of people just sort of go, ‘I’ve had my fill, it was great while it lasted and I don’t want to do it anymore, there’s other things I want to do with my life.’ But for those that are still keen I think it’s a good time provided you can you keep up, because television has changed and the demands of it have changed.”
Gillmer plays publican Marg Braithwaite in the ABC drama, alongside Kerry Armstrong, Julia Blake, Kaarin Fairfax and Hanna Mangan-Lawrence. The series features 3 generations of women as its soul, belying a common industry habit of casts being dominated by males.
Gillmer says there are ten capable female actors for every mature role, but never ten men.
“Think about it. If you picked half a dozen roles and named the actors, like Sigrid, Rebecca, Kerry, and then who would you put underneath them -people with lesser-names but very capable. And then you have a look at the men and tell me how you could line ten men up?
“I know that if you had a discussion with casting people around the country, they will tell you, you get to a certain age in male actors and it’s very slim pickings.
“I don’t mean that they’re not talented. If you have a fabulous role, you’ve got your Steve Bisleys, Gary (Sweet), Shane Bourne –but there ain’t that many for the number of roles that are available for men.
“There’s no question that there’s a wealth of talent in the female ranks but we don’t necessarily see them.”
The problem is evident in television, film and theatre, she says, with casting directors often facing difficulty sourcing male actors to play love interests of women past the age of 40.
But Gillmer is also content with her recent string of acting jobs which includes everything from Hannie Rayson’s new play The Swimming Club for the Melbourne Theatre Company to Underbelly‘s matriarch Judy Moran. The former Prisoner actor is also encouraged by TEN’s plans to revive the genre with a new female prison series, Inside Out.
“I’d be keen to play the Governor but I wouldn’t be keen to be behind bars. I feel like I have been there and done that,” she admits.
While she is defensive of her out of work peers, Gillmer knows she has had a good run of late. Bed of Roses has enjoyed strong support within the ABC, including an order for twice as many episodes in its third season, now screening across summer.
“I was still doing Underbelly when the ABC called about Bed of Roses. So I was just throwing the deck of cards up in the air going, ‘Bring on middle age because it’s gone very well so far,” she concedes.
Bed of Roses airs 7:30pm Saturdays on ABC1.