British Asian actress says casting director called her 'exotic talent'


A British actress has claimed a casting director referred to her ‘exotic talent’ and told her ‘I can’t understand the English coming out of your mouth’ when they met during a Bafta diversity scheme.

India Eva Rae, who appeared as Candice in the Channel 4 series On The Edge, was among 21 young actors selected for the Bafta Elevate initiative in 2019.  

The Bafta website says the scheme helps talent from underrepresented groups progress their careers, while tackling ‘the issue of diversity in our industry as a whole.’

But Ms Rae, who was homeless when she landed her breakthrough role in 2019, claims Elevate was merely a ‘PR exercise’ put in place to ‘clean up’ Bafta’s image following backlash over a lack of nominee diversity in 2017.

The hashtag #BaftasSoWhite had trended on Twitter after it emerged all the nominees in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories for that year were white. 

India Eva Rae, who appeared as Candice in the Channel 4 series On The Edge, was among 21 young actors selected for the Bafta Elevate scheme in 2019

India Eva Rae, who appeared as Candice in the Channel 4 series On The Edge, was among 21 young actors selected for the Bafta Elevate scheme in 2019

The actress, in her 20s, told the BBC she met a casting director through the Elevate scheme, who made racist comments and referred to her as an ‘exotic talent.’

She said the woman told her: ‘The advice I have is more about you understanding what you need to meet when you’re going up as a lead exotic talent in these rooms with our British talent. 

‘I’ve been listening to you my darling … I can’t understand the English coming out of your mouth.’

The actress added she is ‘proud’ of her ethnicity and ‘coming from a background of poverty’. She said: ‘I’m really proud that you can be homeless and someone like Channel 4 and the BBC can recognise your talent.’

Ms Rae, who spent her childhood in and out of care, claims she turned to an Elevate mentor for support following the alleged comments. 

She claims she was told she would ‘never work again’ if she reported the incident.

Bafta told the BBC it did not receive complaints about either allegation, adding it would have taken the claims ‘extremely seriously’ had they been reported.

Ms Rae was selected for the programme following her appearance in Adulting (above), one of three short films in the On the Edge anthology

Ms Rae was selected for the programme following her appearance in Adulting (above), one of three short films in the On the Edge anthology

Amanda Berry, Chief Executive of Bafta, added they were aware Ms Rae had a 'negative experience' with a casting director - but said she did not believe it took take place during the Elevate scheme

Amanda Berry, Chief Executive of Bafta, added they were aware Ms Rae had a ‘negative experience’ with a casting director – but said she did not believe it took take place during the Elevate scheme

Amanda Berry, Chief Executive of Bafta, said they were ‘made aware Ms Rae had a negative experience with a casting director as [she] mentioned it in passing during a session with another actor.’

However, she does not believe the incident took place during the Elevate scheme. 

According to the Bafta website, Elevate participants ‘receive a bespoke 12-month programme of support including networking opportunities, introductions, tailored panel discussions, masterclasses and workshops focused on professional development.’ 

Ms Rae was selected for the programme following her appearance in Adulting, one of three short films in the On the Edge anthology. 

The film focused on the blossoming relationship between a young neurodiverse woman, played by Ms Rae, and a young man who had lost his way in life.  

The actress alleged that when she tried to raise concerns about the Elevate initiative with Tim Hunter, Bafta’s Head of New Talent, she was told her place on the scheme could be at risk.

However, those at the British Academy Film Awards say Ms Rae misunderstood Mr Hunter. They said if a formal complaint is lodged, participation may be paused to ensure the complainant is adequately supported. 

#BaftasSoWhite row over lack of diversity in leading actor nominations 

Bafta has faced criticism for its lack of diversity for several years, most recently in 2020 when #BAFTAsSoWhite again trended on Twitter following the announcement of all-white acting nominations.

Ms Berry admitted she was ‘very disappointed’ in the 73rd British Academy Film Awards shortlist after not a single actor of colour was nominated in the major acting categories.   

The lack of diversity was slammed on social media after it emerged Margot Robbie had been nominated twice in the Supporting Actress category for performances in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Bombshell.

Critics were furious Lupita Nyong’o had not been nominated for her role in Us. 

The 2020 shortlist also saw Jennifer Lopez, 51, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, miss out on a nomination for her acclaimed role in Hustlers. 

Bafta had earlier been criticised for a lack of diversity in its 2017 nominations, after which the Elevate scheme was launched. 

There was particular fury over the decision not to nominate actor Denzel Washington for Best Actor for his role in the acclaimed film Fences. 

Instead, all the Best Actor nominees were white: Jake Gyllenhaal, Andrew Garfield, Casey Affleck, Viggo Mortensen, and Ryan Gosling. 

It was the same for Best Actress, where Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman were in the running but Viola Davis, who earlier won a Golden Globe, missed out. 

Campaigners had descended on the event with placards a year earlier, as they branded the film industry ‘male, pale and stale’.   

Ms Berry told the BBC: ‘It is a matter of great sadness and regret for me that anyone would feel this way, and our door remains completely open to find a solution, and to ensure that every participant benefits from the scheme.’

MailOnline has contacted Bafta for further comment. 

Ms Rae spent her childhood in care, and by her teenage years she was homeless and surviving on the support of food banks.

‘I had no connections in television or the arts, and was regularly told by agents that ‘the parts just aren’t there’ for girls like me,’ she previously said.  

She made her theatre debut in 2019, starring in Ageless at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith. 

The actress appeared in the Channel 4 sitcom Maxxx last year, written and directed by O-T Fagbenle – who recently appeared in The Handmaid’s Tale and Black Widow.       

She made her breakthrough in 2019, when she landed the role of Candice in Adulting.  

‘Channel 4 and BlackLight Television were incredibly nurturing and supportive through the whole process’ she said previously. 

‘It never mattered that the only thing I could bring to the table was raw talent and a passion to tell the story. 

‘They let me spread my wings as an actress and really sink my teeth into a complex, beautiful, three-dimensional character.’ 

Bafta has faced criticism for its lack of diversity for several years, most recently in 2020 when #BAFTAsSoWhite again trended on Twitter following the announcement of all-white acting nominations.

Ms Berry admitted she was ‘very disappointed’ in the 73rd British Academy Film Awards shortlist after not a single actor of colour was nominated in the major acting categories.   

The lack of diversity was slammed on social media after it emerged Margot Robbie had been nominated twice in the Supporting Actress category for performances in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Bombshell.

Critics were furious Lupita Nyong’o had not been nominated for her role in Us. 

The 2020 shortlist also saw Jennifer Lopez, 51, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, miss out on a nomination for her acclaimed role in Hustlers. 

Bafta had earlier been criticised for a lack of diversity in its 2017 nominations, after which the Elevate scheme was launched.

There was particular fury over the decision not to nominate actor Denzel Washington for Best Actor for his role in the acclaimed film Fences. 

Instead, all the Best Actor nominees were white: Jake Gyllenhaal, Andrew Garfield, Casey Affleck, Viggo Mortensen, and Ryan Gosling. 

It was the same for Best Actress, where Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep and Natalie Portman were in the running but Viola Davis, who earlier won a Golden Globe, missed out. 

Campaigners had descended on the event with placards a year earlier, as they branded the film industry ‘male, pale and stale’.   

Earlier this month, the Baftas unveiled an extremely diverse nominations list for 2021 – with 16 out of the 24 acting nominees coming from ethnic minority groups. 

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