Louise Jameson, who played Leela opposite Tom Baker’s Doctor from 1977 to 1978, has spoken of her frustration at the way older female actors are treated by programme makers.
Currently playing Mary Goskirk in ITV soap Emmerdale, Jameson said:
“There’s a lot happening in the 70-plus world – and in the 80-plus world, a friend who couldn’t get insurance because of the virus lost a regular role on a TV series. She’s healthy, she does Pilates twice a week, she walks… she’s as fit as I am. I did a Doctors recently. They went, ‘Oh, you have white hair now. We’ll put a zimmer frame in the corner of the room.’ You think, ‘Really?!’”
It’s a familiar grievance, and it’s depressing to hear that performers are still subjected to this kind of lazy stereotyping. It’s a theme explored by Russell T Davies in his new ITVX drama Nolly, about the legendary queen of ITV’s Crossroads Noele Gordon, who was unceremoniously sacked from the soap in 1981. Over 40 years on, one wonders how much anything has changed.
Jameson seems to be enjoying her time in Emmerdale, however, where her character has come out as a lesbian later in life:
“It is a huge jumping off point. It is another story that isn’t told. Whether you’re gay, straight or whatever, what’s your proclivity at 70? I have a springboard. I’ve spent a lot of time going, ‘I’ve never even kissed a woman! What am I going to do? I’m going to live the rest of my life alone!’”
Louise Jameson is still active in the world of Doctor Who, of course, and can be heard as ex-MI5 agent Roberta Craven in the new two-part Torchwood adventure Double from Big Finish. Next month she’ll be playing Leela again in this year’s International Women’s Day release The Eighth of March 3: Strange Chemistry.