"Downton Abbey" Star Says Playing Gay Butler Has Hurt His Career
Thomas the butler was one a fan favorite on Downton Abbey, but actor Rob James-Collier complains the role of the scheming gay manservant has left him typecast in Hollywood.
James-Collier, 41, told Radio Times that he hasn't had the opportunities his Downton co-stars Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens and Lily James have. Dockery stars in TNT's Good Behavior, while Stevens is the lead in FX's Legion and James most recently appeared in the hit film Baby Driver.
“I think audiences in the U.S. can identify quite easily with the quintessential English gent and English lady, whereas a neurotic, dark, gay character like Thomas is a hard thing to put into the American market. It can lead to typecasting,”
It's not just viewers, he says—producers and casting directors are stuck in their mindset, too.
“Because Thomas Barrow is gay and is, essentially, the bad guy for much of the show, a lot of people within the industry can only see you as that," he adds. "They might not be in a rush to see you as a heterosexual love interest. That takes time.”
James-Collier says he's turned down some stage roles “which happened to be gay characters," but he turned them down because he “really wanted to show something different”.
Since the show's end, James-Collier has starred in the 2016 British movie The Attendant, about a hopeless romantic who creates a fantasy world to fight boredom working late nights in a gas station. He'll next appear in the horror film The Ritual, about old college friends facing a menacing presence on a camping trip.
“It’s a genre I have never done because there’s sometimes a stigma around these films," he says. There can be too much hack-slashing gore and nudity. This is different.”