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Meera Syal: Barack Obama has TV casting to thank for becoming president

The actress thinks diverse casting in TV programmes helped Americans to be able to imagine Obama as president.


Meera Syal has said she thinks diverse television casting was responsible for Barack Obama becoming US president.

The actress was a guest on chat show John Bishop In Conversation With… when she told the comedian why she believes the former president had TV to thank for landing the job as the world’s most powerful person.

The Kumars At No. 42 star said: “I don’t think America would have had Obama if they hadn’t had a good 20 years of television where they absolutely cast in a multiracial way.


“The first time somebody cast a black actor as a surgeon or a judge or a police chief, I’m sure there were lots of Americans going: ‘That doesn’t happen, that’s tokenistic’.

“American television kept on doing it because it’s not just about what reality we think is around us, it’s the reality we want to see – television is aspirational as well as reflective.

“I honestly think the 20 years of normalising black people in positions of power made Obama possible, if television hadn’t done that, I’m not sure that would have happened.

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“I know that’s a big leap to make, but sometimes you have to drag television into the reality of the world it’s ignoring, which is that we are a nation of all kinds of people, doing all kinds of jobs, so why isn’t it normal to see that on television?”

Meera also spoke about meeting Sanjeev Bhaskar while working together on Goodness Gracious Me. The couple have now been married for 12 years.

She said: “When you first meet someone you just put on your best front, it’s like I will be my most beautiful and witty and attractive and you will not see any nasty bit of me until I’ve really got you.


“But with us it was the other way around, we were completely ourselves because we weren’t interested and we were both with other people.

“So when it did turn into something else it was like, ‘Oh, I really do actually know you as a mate, you don’t have to do any of that impressing me because I’ve seen you behave really quite badly, when you had no front on’.

“So that’s actually really comforting because you know beyond the attraction there is a proper, real compatibility there.”

:: John Bishop In Conversation With… Meera Syal airs on W at 9pm on Thursday.

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