Rae, whose credits include Channel 4 series “Maxxx” and “On the Edge,” was a participant in the 2019 diversity-themed program, which included a 21-member cohort of actors from underrepresented communities.
She told the BBC that a casting director — a meeting with whom was set up as part of the program — had described her as an “exotic talent” and also said they “can’t understand the English coming out your mouth.” The actor also said that a BAFTA mentor had advised her not to report the incident. “This mentor told me and other members of the group that we will never work again if we speak up,” Rae told the BBC.
Rae has an auditory processing disorder, affecting the ability to understand speech.
BAFTA confirmed to Variety that it hadn’t received any complaints about the incidents, and if it had, they would have been taken extremely seriously. “We were made aware that the participant had a negative experience with a casting director, as they mentioned it in passing during a session with another actor,” BAFTA CEO Amanda Berry told the BBC.
“We are not aware that this incident happened as part of the Elevate program,” continue Berry.
In a statement emailed to Variety, BAFTA said, “BAFTA Elevate was created in 2017 and has supported over 50 talented individuals from under-represented groups in progressing their careers, and to help tackle the issue of diversity in our industries as a whole. We know first-hand from very many people who have been part of the initiative that they have really benefitted from it, and for some it has been truly career-changing.
“In one isolated incident, an Elevate participant has voiced some concerns over comments made to her,” continues the statement. “BAFTA condemns bullying, harassment, racism and discrimination of any kind and we take allegations of this nature incredibly seriously and will investigate urgently. We go to great lengths to ensure our programs are as inclusive and accessible as possible for everyone who takes part, whatever their specific support needs are, and have responded to and want to resolve the participant’s requests in this area.”
Elevate is one of the schemes launched by BAFTA to improve diversity in the industry. In 2020, the organization carried out a wide-ranging review to address a lack of diversity in the film awards. The review appears to have paid off with the 2021 nominations revealing the most diverse field in years.
Recently, along with the British Film Institute, the BAFTA unveiled a plan to raise awareness of bullying and harassment in the U.K. film and TV industry.