Christopher Eccleston defends playing Jewish character Fagin in ‘Oliver Twist’ spin-off

Christopher Eccleston defends playing Jewish character Fagin in ‘Oliver Twist’ spin-off

Actor Christopher Eccleston has recently defended his portrayal of Fagin in an Oliver Twist spin-off series.

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Eccleston, known for playing the titular role in Russell T. Davies’ 2005 reboot of the classic series, Doctor Who, also played the pickpocketing gang leader in Dodger, a children’s series made for CBBC.

The actor, aged 59, has faced criticism for the role due to the character’s repeated description as ‘the Jew’ in the original Charles Dickens text.

In an interview with The Guardian, Eccleston shared that when the casting was announced, debate started over whether it was right for a non-Jewish actor like him to play the role.

Christopher Eccleston as Fagin in ‘Dodger’ 06/02/22 CREDIT: BBC/NBCUniversal International Studios

He shared in the interview that in his experience, at least one Jewish actor “noted they didn’t object to non-Jewish people playing Jewish roles, [they would] just like it to be spoken about.

“Which I completely agree with. But if I couldn’t play people like me, what’s the point?”

The actor then referred to a recent comment made by author, Salman Rushdie: “If we’re in a world where only women can write about women and only people from India can write about people from India and only straight people can write about straight people… then that’s the death of the art,” he said.

Eccleston also commented on the restrictions facing actors from the working class, and whether only working class talent should play working cast parts, responding, “No, but I think there should be a bit of positive discrimination.”

He continued, “It’s far more acceptable for them to come down than for us to go up. But that’s the death of things, isn’t it?”

The specific debate surrounding non-Jewish casting for Jewish roles also came up during the rise of Oppenheimer. Back in August, comedian David Baddiel questioned Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of physicist Robert J Oppenheimer, who was the son of two Jewish immigrants.

According to The Independent, the Jews Don’t Count author said, “Authenticity casting I think of as an a priori thing that exists.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, I can promise you that in this business – and I am in this business still – casting directors are now frightened to cast except in line with the minority they are casting. But they are not so worried about Jews.”

Elsewhere, Oppenheimer has broken another box office record following the movie’s return to IMAX theatres last week.

The post Christopher Eccleston defends playing Jewish character Fagin in ‘Oliver Twist’ spin-off appeared first on NME.

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