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Syal: I've felt invisible since 50

Published 09/06/2015

Meera Syal says the parts offered to women change once they pass 50
Meera Syal says the parts offered to women change once they pass 50

Actress Meera Syal has hit out at ageism directed at female actresses - saying that she has felt "invisible" since turning 50.

The Goodness Gracious Me star, 53, who has penned her third novel, said that actors who only recently played her husband, were now being cast as her son.

Syal said that writing screenplays was a way of exercising control over the parts that she played.

"A woman of 50 reverts to being invisible. I certainly feel it as an actress, having crossed that threshold," she told Radio Times magazine.

"The parts you're offered really change. The actors who were playing my husband five years ago are now playing my son, which means I must have had them when I was about six."

Syal, who recently played a judge in the second series of Broadchurch, added: "What do we think, that wrinkles are obscene? No wonder people are terrified of getting old. They're not made to feel that having silver hair or the wisdom of experience is anything to look forward to."

Dramas such as Last Tango In Halifax, starring Sir Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, and the Birds of a Feather remake, featuring Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Lesley Joseph, have all been big hits while casting older actors.

"It's interesting that the shows that have been huge successes in recent times have been Last Tango in Halifax and the remakes of Birds of a Feather and Open All Hours," Syal said. "They got massive, massive audiences."

Meanwhile, Big Brother host Emma Willis told the magazine that she was relieved to see TV bosses employing female presenters in their forties.

The Voice star's fellow presenters include Tess Daly, 46, Claudia Winkleman, 43, Holly Willoughby, 34, and Caroline Flack, 35.

"We're all in our 30s and 40s, which is nice because I think back to myself in my 20s and I knew b****r all and it's only as I've got older that I feel I've started being taken slightly more seriously and I've figured out who I am a lot more," she told the magazine.

"As a woman that's getting older it's nice (to work in television) especially with what they say about Hollywood not having parts for older women. It's great that women in their 40s on television are not being got rid of."

Love Island and X Factor presenter Flack said that it felt as though there had been "a shift" when it came to hiring women.

"A lot of women are coming through into TV now. Could I have taken on X Factor in my 20s? Probably not. It's like any job - you have to work at it, learn your trade, improve. My career didn't start properly until I was 30. Now I know who I am and I'm having fun."

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