‘Like Skydiving without a Parachute’: How Class Origin Shapes Occupational Trajectories in British Acting

Friedman, Sam; O'Brien, David and Laurison, Daniel. 2017. ‘Like Skydiving without a Parachute’: How Class Origin Shapes Occupational Trajectories in British Acting. Sociology, 51(5), pp. 992-1010. ISSN 0038-0385 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

There is currently widespread concern that access to, and success within, the British acting profession is increasingly dominated by those from privileged class origins. This article seeks to empirically interrogate this claim using data on actors from the Great British Class Survey (N = 404) and 47 qualitative interviews. First, survey data demonstrate that actors from working-class origins are significantly underrepresented within the profession. Second, they indicate that even when those from working-class origins do enter the profession they do not have access to the same economic, cultural and social capital as those from privileged backgrounds. Third, and most significantly, qualitative interviews reveal how these capitals shape the way actors can respond to shared occupational challenges. In particular we demonstrate the profound occupational advantages afforded to actors who can draw upon familial economic resources, legitimate embodied markers of class origin (such as Received Pronunciation) and a favourable typecasting.

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Identification Number (DOI):



acting , class origin , class pay gap , cultural and creative industries , cultural capital , social mobility

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


28 February 2016Published Online
October 2017Published

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Date Deposited:

16 Mar 2016 22:27

Last Modified:

27 Apr 2022 14:00

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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