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Michael Sheen says he finds it ‘hard to accept’ non-Welsh actors in Welsh roles

06 Jun 2023 3 minute read
Michael Sheen in Under Milk Wood Credit: Johan Persson

Michael Sheen has said he finds it “very hard to accept” actors who are not Welsh portraying Welsh characters.

The Newport-born actor, 54, has starred in a raft of various roles throughout his career including playing Edinburgh-born former prime minister Sir Tony Blair and English broadcaster David Frost.

In an interview with The Telegraph, he discussed whether he feels actors can credibly play identities they have not personally lived.

“Seeing people playing Welsh characters who are not Welsh, I find, it’s very hard for me to accept that,” he said.

“Not particularly on a point of principle, but just knowing that that’s not the case.”

The actor explained that he had been confronting his thoughts on which roles he feels actors can play after working on his new drama, Best Interests, where he portrays the parent of a child with cerebral palsy.

He added: “That’s a very different end of the spectrum, but a part like Richard III is such a great character to play, it would be sad to think that that character is no longer available or appropriate for actors to play who don’t have disabilities, but that’s because I’m just not used to it yet, I suppose.

“Because I fully accept that I’m not going to be playing Othello any time soon.

“Again, it’s not particularly a point of principle, but personally, I haven’t seen many actors who have come from quite privileged backgrounds being particularly compelling as people from working-class backgrounds.

“If you haven’t experienced something, the extreme example is, well, if you haven’t murdered someone, can you play a murderer?”

Welsh stories

The actor has set up his own production company, Red Seam, with Sherlock producer Bethan Jones with the aim of telling more Welsh stories.

“You can shout about how bad it is, but if you want to see something be different then do it, you know?” he explained.

Sheen also railed against the title of the Prince of Wales being continued.

“I think it’s ridiculous. It’s just silly. I see no reason why the title should continue. Certainly not with someone who’s not Welsh,” he said.

“That’s not the majority view. So, whatever the majority of people want, I’m sure will continue.”


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Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
10 months ago

I love you Michael Sheen for everything you do and say to stand up for nation. I do take your point and I’m glad you made it. However, there is one ‘but’ coming here. Philip Glenister in ‘Steeltown Murders’. What a beautiful job he does and let’s face it, you can’t mess with Gene Hunt.

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
10 months ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

His mam’s Welsh, and he says he adopted her accent for his ‘Steeltown Murders’ character. At the other end of the spectrum is Roger Lloyd Pack’s lamentable attempt in the ITV true-crime drama ‘Dandelion Dead’.

Richard
Richard
10 months ago

We all remember the host of cymry in the How Green Was My Valley movie ??? 🎥 🥹…

The late Meredydd Edwards once told me of the host of roles lost.

Philip Davies
Philip Davies
10 months ago

His view is the very antithesis of his own profession. Simply more woke nonsense. Stick to acting, man – you’re good at that!

NOT Grayham Jones
NOT Grayham Jones
10 months ago

Sheen needs to engage his brain before making such stupid comments- he has played plenty of English roles in his time- did he find it hard to accept such roles or was it “work is work darling”

Richard
Richard
10 months ago

We need the real Grayham back. His clear, well articulated and rounded views no doubt would add to this topic

Frank
Frank
10 months ago

What I think Michael means is English actors who put on very poor exaggerated Welsh accents and sound as if they are taking the pi55. He on the other hand can put on amazing English accents. His comment has been misunderstood and probably misquoted as usual by the English press.

CapM
CapM
10 months ago

“In an interview with The Telegraph,..”

A strange decision by Michael Sheen to grant the Telegraph an interview.
It’s not really a publication read by TV and film industry types or people in Cymru who aren’t establishment supporting reactionaries.
Who was he trying to make aware or influence.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  CapM

One of the last maybe…Telegraph etc in the hands of the receiver and up for sale. Crowd fund its purchase and turn it into a loo roll factory…

Riki
Riki
10 months ago

I agree 100% on the title Prince of Wales, not the title itself but rather it being held by a foreigner. As for non-Cymric actors, I disagree, if they can portray Wales correctly, after all, that’s their job. Then I see no reason why they can’t play Cymric Characters.

Tom Ratcliffe
Tom Ratcliffe
10 months ago

How about non English actors playing English roles? I believe actors are actors because they can act as anyone.
Like a prime minister, Micheal?

Arthur Owen
Arthur Owen
10 months ago

Dear Michael,stick to acting and doing good deeds,they are both more difficult than pontificating anyway.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago

A film that is rarely screened and contains a hat-full of home grown talent (some schooled in Coleg Harlech) and filmed entirely in Cymru is ‘Happy Now’ 2001…

Anorthosis Famagusta
Anorthosis Famagusta
10 months ago

Imagine my disappointment! I’d just gotten off the phone with my good friend Steffan Spielberg – he’s just agreed to direct a major motion picture with Michael Sheen in the main role. ‘Glyndŵr: Fire and Fury’ (working title of course). Based on this interview we’ll have to change tack – I’m afraid that as a south Walian it would be completely inappropriate for Mr. Sheen to play this role, the actor has to come from somewhere in the Dee valley.
For goodness sake, they’re actors – they’re pretending to be someone else for the purposes of entertainment.

Dai Jung
Dai Jung
10 months ago

Odd comment from Sheen, not least because there is no lived welsh experience. The experience of someone living in a council estate in Newport is so far from the experience of a middle class welsh speaker living down the Bay or Penarth, that they may well be from a different planet. People from south east Wales often have more in common with the people from the north England than they do north Wales. In fact, the Newport accent is often mistaken for the Newcastle one. The Swansea accent is different from the Cardiff, and the mid Wales and North Wales,… Read more »

Brian Llewelyn Clough
Brian Llewelyn Clough
10 months ago

Thoroughly enjoyed Sheen playing famous welshmen like Brian Clough and Tony Blair; the fact he can play them so sincerely as the Welsh heroes they are without any hypocrisy and stupid mimicry was brilliant.

Jon
Jon
9 months ago

So he’ll no longer be playing non-Welsh roles then? And how far do we go with this ridiculous notion? Only people from Anglesey allowed to play characters from Anglesey, etc? And where is the line drawn to qualify as Welsh? Born, raised or simply just live there? He’s gone so far up is own a-hole now that he’s just spewing crap.

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