Downton Abbey star says playing a gay man has hurt his career


Downton Abbey star Rob James-Collier has said playing a gay character has had a negative impact on his career.

The 41-year-old actor played villainous under-butler Thomas Barrow on the show, which ended last year after six seasons.

During a controversial season 5 storyline which saw Thomas attempt to ‘cure’ his homosexuality with toxic ‘medicine,’ James-Collier said playing the part was “a privilege”.



He reported that showing the difficulties of being gay in early-20th century Britain had helped some of the show’s fans to deal with their own sexualities.

Receiving letters from these viewers was “the greatest compliment of all,” he said, adding that they were “very humbling, poignant and heartfelt.”

But, speaking to Radio Times, he said that the watching public now associated him with Thomas’s gay character, which had affected his job prospects.



“I think audiences in the US 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,” he added.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge shares a joke with actor Robert James-Collier (Thomas) during an official visit to the set of Downton Abbey at Ealing Studios on March 12, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)


And James-Collier complained that he had the same issue with producers and casting directors.

“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 said.

“They might not be in a rush to see you as a heterosexual love interest.

“That takes time.”

The actor revealed that since the hugely successful ITV show, he has refused to take on theatrical roles “which happened to be gay characters.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30:  Actors Allen Leech and Rob James Collier attend The Downton Abbey Ball at The Savoy Hotel on April 30, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)


He rejected these offers because he “really wanted to show something different”.

Since the show’s heartwarming conclusion, James-Collier’s fellow Downton star Lily James has been in summer blockbuster Baby Driver.

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And of course Dan Stevens, who played the tragic figure of Matthew Crawley in the period drama, portrayed the Beast in this year’s Beauty and the Beast.

James-Collier will at least appear in the upcoming horror film The Ritual, which is about old friends from university reuniting for a terrifying camping trip.