Maureen Beattie calls for protection of actors from abuse, bullying and harassment to be stepped up

One of Scotland's leading stage and screen stars has called for protection from bullying, harassment and abuse to be written into the contracts of performers in future.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 4:55 am
Maureen Beattie is the current president of actors' union Equity. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Maureen Beattie, president of actors' union Equity in the UK, suggested there should be a nominated person on every production for actors to go to with concerns.

The Glasgow actress, only the second president of Equity in its history, was involved in its “Safe Spaces” campaign, which was launched in 2018 in the wake of the #MeToo move what it described as “our industry’s sexual harassment crisis.”

Speaking in a podcast interview, Beattie said there was ongoing resistance among "old school" directors to the idea of having intimacy coordinators on set for sex scenes.

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Maureen Beattie was among the actors to take part in the National Theatre of Scotland's 'Scenes for Survival' project.

Beattie said the case of British actor Noel Clarke, who more than 20 women have lodged complaints about, had been a wake-up call for the industry because of the financial implications of productions being suddenly axed.

Beattie, whose screen credits include Casualty, Doctors, Outlander, Midsomer Murders, Lewis and Deadwater Fell, was interviewed by actress Nicola Roy for her podcast The Cultural Coven.

Asked what could be done to improve the safety of actors in rehearsal rooms and on sets, Beattie said there was a clear need for the industry to “reboot” its campaigning following recent cases in the UK, which she said were just “the tip of the iceberg.”Beattie said:

We always knew that the slimebags were going to crawl out from under their stones eventually. Some of them never ever went under. They just ignored us and carried on behaving atrociously. We’ve got to look at it again.

"The one thing that’s really important is that it’s got to be embedded in our terms and conditions and contracts that they have to look after their workers from the point of view of heath and safety. Part of that has to be making sure people are not bullied and harassed.

"A lot of the old school don’t like intimacy direction, because they just like to get down and dirty with the artists.

"You know what it’s like. You’ve never met the person before. All the other stuff is all worked on and done properly and rehearsed. You’d never do a fight scene without rehearsing it.

"Then you get a situation where two people are lying on a bed naked together, pretending to have sex, and nobody rehearses it.”

Roy, who recalled being bullied as an actor, said there was a “fear” in the industry that people who spoke out about their experiences could be “penalised” or branded “troublesome.”

Beattie said: “There is a movement in Equity to put a mentee scheme together.

“I’d like to take it further so that in the rehearsal room on the first day there’s someone that says: ‘Before we begin, if anybody has got anything happening or sees anything I am the one that is responsible.’

“We’ve got to change the culture so that it is so shocking when it it happens.

"When we were setting up our ‘Safe Spaces’ campaign it made me think again about how I was treated at drama school and in my early days in theatre. I was just completely shocked at the things that were said to me. I remember being uncomfortable, but didn’t think it was wrong.”