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Dame Sheila Hancock says her milestone age prevents worry of cancel culture

Dame Sheila Hancock says her milestone age prevents worry of cancel culture

Dame Sheila Hancock has said she no longer cares about being cancelled for saying something “outrageous” because of her age.

The 90-year-old British actor, who was made a DBE in 2021, told the BBC’s Amol Rajan that she’s not afraid to speak her mind against the backdrop of cancel culture because “I’m shortly going to be cancelled by death anyway”.

“If I say something outrageous and I’m cancelled, I’m shortly going to be cancelled by death anyway,” she told the University Challenge host in a forthcoming interview on Friday (19 January).

“It gives me a sort of ‘oh dear I don’t care, because I’m going’”, Hancock added.

One of the UK’s most respected actors, Hancock’s career spans seven decades and includes stage, TV and film credits such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas,Edie, Carry on Cleo, and Entertaining Mr Sloane.

She began her acting career after graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) in London where Hancock was “one of the very few working class people”.

During her time at Rada, she “spent the whole time” being pulled up for her pronunciation of certain words, the Tony winner told Rajan.

“All the other people in the class were frightfully posh and they were all shrieking with laughter,” she recalled.

Elsewhere, Hancock opened up about coping with the grief of losing both her husbands – Alec Ross in 1971 and John Thaw in 2002 – explaining she’s “not good at passing on lessons” because “I don’t learn lessons myself”.

The only thing she can say, Hancock continued, is that you “eventually come out the other side”.

Hancock began practicing the Quaker faith in the late Eighties after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and realised “there was something missing in my life”.

Dame Sheila Hancock after receiving her Damehood for services to Drama and to Charity at Windsor Castle on November 09, 2021 (Getty Images)
Dame Sheila Hancock after receiving her Damehood for services to Drama and to Charity at Windsor Castle on November 09, 2021 (Getty Images)

The Inspector Morse star said: “When I got cancer, I knew there was something missing in my life. There was a level of spirituality, it was lacking,” she recalled.

“[With the] Quakers I was immediately at home. [There was] this marvellous thing of worshipping in silence. But it’s not meditation. It’s not going in on yourself, it’s going out, it’s reaching out for something.”

When asked whether it had helped her with grief, Hancock simply replied: “Oh god, yes.”

Hancock published her 300-page memoir Old Rage – a reflection on her career highs and lows, the pain of losing loved ones, old age, Brexit, and lockdown – in 2022.