One of the stars of BBC2â€™s hit police drama Line of Duty has called for more working-class writers to combat the â€œDownton Abbey effectâ€ on television.
Daniel Mays, who also starred in ITVâ€™s Mrs Biggs and BBC1â€™s Ashes to Ashes, and as Private Walker in the new film version of Dadâ€™s Army, said the industry was awash with actors and writers educated at public school.
He said writers such as Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio and the worlds they created were â€œvital for the BBC and for British dramaâ€.
â€œWeâ€™re awash with the Downton Abbey effect â€“ which is all great and I actually loved [BBC1â€™s] War and Peace,â€ Mays told the new issue of Radio Times.
â€œAll those shows definitely have a place, but there are a lot of public school actors and writers about at the moment. Thatâ€™s why I think writers like Jed and [Holding On creator] Tony Marchant and the worlds that theyâ€™re depicting are vital for the BBC and for British drama.â€
Mays is the latest figure from the world of TV and film to express concern about the lack of working-class voices in the industry and the fear that the acting profession has become the preserve of a privileged elite.
Walters told the Guardian last year: â€œWorking-class kids arenâ€™t represented. Working-class life is not referred to. Itâ€™s really sad. It will be middle-class people playing working-class people, like it used to be.â€
Mays said: â€œI know Julie Walters brought to the table the lack of the underclass going to drama school, but there also needs to be more writers like [Cracker creator] Jimmy McGovern and Jed to bring stories about people from poorer backgrounds to the table for people to experience.â€
The Essex-born actor, who graduated from Rada in 2000, added: â€œRada gives huge grants and funding to people from working-class backgrounds to be able to enrol, which is the only reason I could go.â€
The class issue came to the fore with a string of high profile TV and film roles going to privately educated stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and Damian Lewis.
Maysâ€™s comments echo those of Phil Redmond, the writer behind Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks, who criticised the lack of working class voices on television.
â€œWhatâ€™s needed on British TV is different voices â€“ working-class voices â€“ something more than elites recruiting from the elites and making TV that doesnâ€™t understand the issues affecting ordinary people,â€ Redmond said in January.
But Tom Hollander, currently starring in BBC1â€™s The Night Manager and Doctor Thorne on ITV, said last week that the preponderance of high profile TV and film roles going to privately educated stars was down to fashion not privilege.
Hollander said: â€œWhen I started in the profession there were very visible actors who were Scottish, Welsh or regional. Lots of working-class-hero leading actors â€“ it was not fashionable to sound posh. Now Iâ€™m middle-aged itâ€™s fashionable to sound posh if you are the generation behind me.â€
Hollanderâ€™s Doctor Thorne co-star Rebecca Front said: â€œItâ€™s not impossible to be an actor if you went to state school. I went to state school. But there is a problem of affordability, I know one major drama school is worried that only rich kids can access an arts education.â€
Line of Duty, about a controversial police anti-corruption unit, has previously starred Lennie James and Keeley Hawes. It will return for a third series on BBC2 on 24 March.