Friday Night Dinner: Tamsin Greig says she ‘probably shouldn’t’ have played a Jewish mother

·2-min read
Friday Night Dinner: Tamsin Greig says she ‘probably shouldn’t’ have played a Jewish mother

Tamsin Greig has reflected on her role in the Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner, saying she “probably shouldn’t” have played a Jewish matriarch.

Greig, who is a practising Christian with Jewish ancestry, played the part of Jackie Goodman in the comedy, which follows a Jewish family living in north London.

“I think, given our sensitivity today about these issues, I probably shouldn’t have been in that show,” the actor told The Telegraph in a new interview.

“We are much more conscious today than we were when that show was first aired.”

She added: “For instance, Cleopatra has long been on my list of roles to play but I have to step back from that now, because Cleopatra needs to be played by someone who looks like they may have come from that area of the world. That’s absolutely right. But I’ll keep Lady Macbeth on the list.”

Friday Night Dinner ended after six seasons in 2020 following the death of one of its stars, Paul Ritter, of a brain tumour. Ritter had played the husband of Greig’s character.

The show was created by Jewish screenwriter Robert Popper but none of the cast – except Tracy-Ann Oberman, who played Auntie Val – was Jewish.

Paul Ritter, Tom Rosenthal, Simon Bird and Tamsin Greig in ‘Friday Night Dinner’ (Channel 4)
Paul Ritter, Tom Rosenthal, Simon Bird and Tamsin Greig in ‘Friday Night Dinner’ (Channel 4)

Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal were among the other cast members. Rosenthal told the i in 2016: “I have a Jewish name and a Jewish face but I’m not a Jewish person.”

There are many examples of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish roles, from Rachel Brosnahan as Midge in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex to Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem in Mrs America.

There has been a rise in campaigning for Jewish representation on screen in recent years, with stars such as Maureen Lipman and Miriam Margolyes signing a letter in 2019 accusing the musical Falsettos of “jewface”.

US comic Sarah Silverman also recently said on her podcast: “Lately it’s been happening – if that role is a Jewish woman, but she is courageous, or she deserves love, or has bravery, or is altruistic in any way, she’s played by a non-Jew.”

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