David Baddiel: Jewish actors don't deserve abuse for saying they should play Jewish roles

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WINDSOR, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  David Baddiel, comedian and novelist, during Cliveden Literary Festival 2021 at Cliveden House on October 23, 2021 in Windsor, England. His latest book is called Jews Dont Count. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
David Baddiel believes Jewish people are not viewed as a minority. (Getty Images)

David Baddiel has said Jewish actors do not deserve to be abused for saying they should play Jewish roles.

The 57-year-old comedian has spoken out in defence of Coronation Street star Dame Maureen Lipman after she questioned why Dame Helen Mirren had been cast in former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in the forthcoming biopic Golda.

Baddiel wrote in The Guardian: "It is complex. At the end of the day, I don’t know the answer. But I think that I — and Maureen Lipman and any other Jew — should not be abused for asking the question."

Read more: Maureen Lipman quits Equity over its call upon members to join pro-Palestinian march

The Three Lions singer said he believed the problem stemmed from Jewish people often not being considered to be a minority.

Watch: Maureen Lipman clarifies her comments on Helen Mirren playing Golda Meir

He said: "Jewish is the minority that you can cast with actors not of that minority, and hardly, until very recently, hear a whisper of concern. 

"What you can hear, still, if you do raise the issue, is an extremely vehement reaction."

Baddiel went on to say that Jews are assumed, "anti-Semitically to be successful and privileged and powerful", and therefore their marginalisation is often overlooked.

Maureen Lipman refused to watch 'Naked Attraction' for 'Celebrity Gogglebox'. (PA)
Maureen Lipman has questioned why Helen Mirren has been cast as Golda Meir in a biopic of the Jewish politician. (PA)

The writer and TV presenter pointed out that mimicking any other "marginalised identity" is understood to be offensive, as it can "carry with it an element of mockery."

Baddiel revealed that rather than the term "Jewface" he prefers the phrase "Nebbish Being".

'Nebbish' derives from the Yiddish word nebekh and means a person who behaves in a submissive manner.

Baddiel argued that just as an actor mimicking stereotypical traits associated with being black, gay, trans, disabled or any other minority, a non Jewish actor using "Nebbish Being", would be "disrespectful, or at least not true, to Jews".

Host Graham Norton, (left) and Tamsin Greig during filming for the Graham Norton Show at BBC Studioworks in London, to be aired on BBC One on Friday evening.
Tamsin Greig has said she 'probably shouldn't have been cast in Friday Night Dinner'. (PA)

Referring Tamsin Greig's recent comments that she "probably shouldn't" have been cast as Jewish mother mother Jackie Goodman in Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner, Baddiel said he wasn't looking for apologies from non-Jewish actors.

Read more: David Baddiel defends giving airtime to Holocaust denier in new documentary

He said: "I believe two things at once – that in an ideal world, non-Jews should be allowed to play Jews, but the fact this allowance already exists, and has up to this point received very little pushback is, in the modern casting context, a discrepancy, and one that needs to be deconstructed, because it says a lot about how people see Jews."

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