'We have got to turn that corner': Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes opens up about the need for more black role models on television

By Jason Chester

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Downton Abbey has been met with applause for its decision to include a black character, the very first in its four series run – and creator Julian Fellowes hopes it will open the floodgates for other shows to follow suit.

The hugely popular drama returned on September 22 with the much vaunted appearance of sharp-suited jazz singer Jack Ross, played by Gary Carr.

But while his presence is a bold move given the show’s historical context, 64-year-old Fellowes believes it is necessary – because the black community need to see more positive role models on TV.

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A sea of change: Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes hopes the introduction of the show's first black character will open the floodgates for other shows to follow suit

A sea of change: Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes hopes the introduction of the show's first black character will open the floodgates for other shows to follow suit

New face: Gary Carr is charming jazz singer Jack Ross in series four of Downton Abbey

New face: Gary Carr is charming jazz singer Jack Ross in series four of Downton Abbey

‘I think the world has been very unjust to black people,’ he told The Sun. ‘They have had a very rough time. If I was growing up now, I would want to see some winners among that group.

‘I would want to see some positive role models who are getting things done.’

 

While the appearance of genial jazzman Ross is a step in the right direction, Fellowes believes we are already starting to see positive changes for British actors of West Indian and African descent in the cinema.

That change, Fellowes believes, is easily symbolised by Naomie Harris, who was introduced as the new Miss Moneypenny in Skyfall, currently the highest grossing James Bond film of all time. 

Smooth: Gary Carr makes an appearance as Jack Ross in Downton Abbey

Smooth: Gary Carr makes an appearance as Jack Ross in Downton Abbey

 
Mingling in: Ross meets Lady Rose, played by actress Lily James

Mingling in: Ross meets Lady Rose, played by actress Lily James

‘What Naomie Harris is doing for young black girls out there is really good. I am 100 per cent behind that,’ he said.

Ross, 26, had previously taken on smaller roles in a string of shows, amongst them Death In Paradise and Bluestone 42, before landing a prominent role in the 1920s period drama.

Last year Fellowes said he hoped to ‘open it up ethnically a bit’ and revealed he was considering adding a black or Indian character.

'I am 100 per cent behind that': Julian Fellowes is a big fan of Naomie Harris' casting as Miss Moneypenny in James Bond film Skyfall

'I am 100 per cent behind that': Julian Fellowes is a big fan of Naomie Harris' casting as Miss Moneypenny in James Bond film Skyfall

The novelist and screenwriter – whose screenplay for Gosford Park won him an Academy Award – now hopes his presence will be a green-light for other TV shows to follow their lead.

He said: ‘We have got to turn that corner. In ten years nobody will know what we are talking about. That is what I hope.’

Downton Abbey continues on Sunday, October 20 ITV1. 

Global hit: Downton Abbey has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2010

Global hit: Downton Abbey has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2010



The comments below have been moderated in advance.

What's Jules on about? This is like some comment one might have made in 1983. Not 2013. To suggest his 1922 shoehorned in music star tokanism is in any way related to what else is going on in the real world of UK telly is nutty. Doesn't he watch any telly but DA? Nearly every show that has an ensemble cast today has a white, Asian, Afro-Caribbean and/or Oriental cast member in a prominent role. And Jules, what about "Luther?" He's the front and center star! Adrian Lester in "Hustle?" The star! All the major shows now have cast members from all groups. Poor Julian. It's 2013, matey. Not 1983.

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More social engineering hype. If you want to increase the number of black people on TV, then stop doing "classic British period drama", to place such characters introduces falsehoods. Like women in Cabinet, why stuff programmes with ethnic minorities to "make them feel better"? Accuracy and the truth are more important.

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haha....they are going to be difficult to find aren,t they ?

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One often wonders how the 'govt' manages to corrupt and pervert all facets of the entertainment business. It is obvious. They threaten writers, production companies and broadcasting companies with cancellation of franchises to broadcast. I figured it out long since,It will all backfire. It is only a matter of time.

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err...no thanks ....this IS england old chap, and don,t you forget it !

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I don't think it's just political correctness, I feel he has a bit of a complex...

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No we don't, now b*gger off.

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I was actually enjoying Downton for not having stupid PC quotas. Until now.

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Yes lets try to deflect from the publics disdain at the improper rape scene in a family show by bringing a positive different story out quickly. We are not that thick Julienne to see through this tactic.

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He's obviously not seen cBeebies recently. Apart from the lovely Justin and the forever virginal Katie, there's everything but the average white British presenter and child. In fact, even on Justin's show, the majority of the disabled children featured are non-white. What does THAT say about the 'minorities'?! A little proportion would go a long way.

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