I always get excited when the White Rose county, especially my home city of Leeds, is name-checked in a major film, TV series or play.
During a tense opening scene in The Lost Daughter, a movie directed by Hollywood A-lister Maggie Gyllenhaal, it soon becomes clear that Olivia Colman’s professor hails from God’s Own Country.
Colman is asked by Callie, a member of a rowdy American family, where her “people” are from. “They’re from Leeds. Well, Shipley really.” Callie comments: “Fancy.” “No,” the academic drily replies, “it’s not fancy.”
Colman, who grew up in Norfolk, makes a decent fist of a Yorkshire accent, which has traditionally been disfigured by performers who do not emanate from these parts.
There have been some grim attempts over the past few decades, from Juliette Binoche as Cathy in 1992’s Wuthering Heights to Anne Hathaway in 2011’s One Day.
This is the second time in six years Colman has played a Yorkshire woman in a major production.
It was never explicitly stated, but her intelligence agency chief in the TV adaptation of John le Carré’s The Night Manager sounded like she was from Halifax. Which, as we know, is a lot fancier than Shipley.
Joking aside, I have no great objection to non-northerners taking on northern roles.
There is, apparently, a new school of acting which believes in confining performers to roles that reflect their “true selves”.
This is becoming an issue in terms of gender, ethnicity and nationality. The Spanish star Javier Bardem was called out for being cast as a Cuban in Aaron Sorkin’s new film Being
the Ricardos – and Maureen Lipman has objected to the non-Jewish Helen Mirren playing former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in an upcoming movie.
Still, given the Dick Van Dyke-esque, accent-mangling efforts of Binoche, Hathaway et al, it came as a relief to hear, once again, authentic Tykes like Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill bantering their way through the New Year’s Day episode of Doctor Who.
Eve Of The Daleks was a return to form for showrunner Chris Chibnall. It was a cross between a time-loop Groundhog Day story and a romantic comedy, and with everyone’s favourite cyborg aliens back to terrify us – and a rollicking turn from Aisling Bea – it reassured Whovians that the iconic show had not lost its mojo.
Indeed, this year we are in for a treat as Whittaker (from Skelmanthorpe, near Huddersfield) takes her final bow as the Time Lord.
Watching the festive episode, it appeared likely her on-screen dynamic with Gill (from Leeds) would evolve into a romance. Off screen, they seem to be great mates and the Who fandom have compared their double act to Gogglebox’s witty sisters Ellie and Izzi Warner – who are also, of course, from Leeds.
Doctor Who is big in the US, but Gill was startled to hear that some Americans had been using subtitles to understand her Yorkshire accent.
As she told an interviewer: “You’ve got Scary Spice in the States, and she’s way more northern than we are. So, if you can understand her, which you completely do because she gets that X Factor job again and again, you can definitely understand us.”
Bizarrely, a US chat show last year captioned Jodie’s pronunciation of Huddersfield as “Hoodezfield”.
Whittaker’s regeneration will take place in the autumn, but just as we are saying goodbye to the Thirteenth Doctor we will be saying hello again to the amazing Anne Lister, portrayed by the excellent Suranne Jones.
Lister lived at Shibden Hall in Halifax, and I’m looking forward to visiting an exhibition to mark the building’s 600th birthday. Gentleman Jack, Sally Wainwright’s period drama about the “first modern-day lesbian”, was a big hit in 2019 and I predict it will be just as big in 2022.
The only caveat to the eagerly-awaited return of the legendary Yorkshire landowner is that although Jones is a northerner, she was born in Chadderton. Which is on the wrong side of the Pennines. But we’ll let that pass.
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