French actor, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, 58, believes there’s should be “no guilt or shame around ageing”. And she’s leading the way as Sylvie - the fashionable, beautifully droll PR director in Netflix’s hit series, Emily in Paris.
At times, watching Sylvie effortlessly charm the camera lens is almost as compelling as marvelling at Emma Cooper’s (Lily Collins) witty wardrobe.
“Philippine is the exact type of women that the French love as she is thin, sophisticated and chic. She also dresses in a low key style, which is very sexy - unlike mature Australian women who are often flashy in their look-at-me outfits,” says French cabaret artist, Caroline Nin, who is also 58 and married to an Australian.
In one scene in the second series, Leroy-Beaulieu emerges from the water in a bikini at a beach club in the South of France and looks perfectly at ease with herself. She’s no Bondi Beach babe but a woman who just looks very good for her age and clearly feels free in her bikini.
Despite this Caroline Nin believes that Leroy-Beaulieu, who is also on the screens in another Netflix production, Call My Agent, would be “barely visible” here where roles for older, sensual women are not so common.
Why do we turn away from the signs of ageing?
In fact, Mature Australian actors and performers are so on the outer here that they’re not even given minority group status. In the Landmark Screen Australia report of 2016, Seeing Ourselves - Reflections Of Diversity In TV Drama, older Australians were barely mentioned as a minority group. But that’s exactly how they are viewed here and mainly given character roles as grannies and grandpas. The wicked mother-in-law role is also popular. There’s little exploration of the depth of their soul. So, it will be interesting to see if mature performers rate a mention in the new Screen Australia report on diversity, which is due out later this year as they’re still largely unrepresented on screen.
Casting directors must also play their part
Australia is not the only country to blame for a blinkered approach to casting. There’s major outcry in the US at present as Emmy Rossum, 35 (who is known for playing Fiona Gallagher in Shameless), has been cast as the mother of Tom Holland, 25, in the Apple TV series, The Crowded Room, which explores stories of those who have struggled and learned to successfully live with mental illness.
It’s an age gap which defies logic and will no doubt result in Rossum, spending hours in makeup trying to look older. So why not use an actor who is already naturally lined, in their late 50s, which would make more sense as the mother of a 25 year old ?
There’s no shortage of actors who continue to blossom as they age
Some excellent mature age role models have crossed the barrier of ageism. They include in Jackie Weaver, Dame Helen Mirren and Dame Judi Dench. Nicole Kidman, 54, is also moving into that territory. She’s bringing new depth to every role, as her recent Oscar nomination for playing Lucille Ball in the behind-the-scenes drama Being The Ricardos will attest..
Come back Kerri-Anne Kennerley we miss you.
However when it comes to older role models on mainstream entertainment there is one name that keeps popping up - Australia’s original golden girl
Nobody puts Kerri-Anne Kennerley, 68 in the corner. The multi-media personality has been front and centre on stage and on camera for decades including a recent controversial stint as a panellist on Studio Ten. Age is never an issue with Kennerley who embraces physical challenges including memorable performances on Dancing With The Stars and in the Stephen Schwartz Broadway classic, Pippin, last year at Sydney’s Lyric theatre. She sang No Time At All, bravely teetering high above the audience on a trapeze without a harness. Unfortunately during one performance, she plummeted to the ground, breaking her collarbone and chipping her ankle. But Kennerley still managed to brush herself off and finish her number before going to hospital, adding another title to her name - Legend. We need to see more people like her on stage to mirror our society.
Caroline Nin also celebrates maturity
The French artist has dazzled in the limelight in Australia, appearing at the Melbourne Arts Centre and Recital Centre, the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and twice at the Sydney Opera House for two week runs in her shows where she inhabits the characters of Edith Piaf and Marlene Dietrich. The 58-year old is also looking forward to another production at the Sydney Opera House in the second half of this year but has no shortage of work in the meantime. Audiences, who often includes “quirky young people” are drawn to her confident performances and like the French star of Emily In Paris, her European insouciance.
Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu is proud of her expression lines
“I think it’s important to really own this ageing thing and not make it a problem, not make it something we can’t talk about,” the French actor told Glamour magazine last year. “I understand the insecurity, the pressure that we get, especially in our business,” she said. “ But it’s time to say `this is my age and this is who I am. I own my wrinkles, this is my whole life’.” Leroy-Beaulieu, who first came onto the scene in the Eighties, also believes that ageing gracefully is about “being a kinder person than you were when you were younger because life kind of polishes you. It’s about having more compassion and being less competitive. When an actor turns 45 or even 40 - people want her to leave the industry but there’s so much more that we can teach young girls.”
So Australian scriptwriters, directors and producers, it now rests with you to present a much more rounded and realistic view of our society. We need to see mature actors in much more meaty roles and to keep pace with an ageing society. It all starts with the tapping on a keyboard.