Journal

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Remembering Earl Cameron (1917-2020)



I'm taking a Social Media Holiday right now. It seems to be helping. But I couldn't let this pass...

In 1996 we filmed the original Neverwhere television series (which I wrote for Lenny Henry's company Crucial Films who made it for the BBC). One of the most inspiring moments for me was when Earl Cameron came in and auditioned to play the Abbot of the Black Friars. He was a legend back then, 25 years ago. Watching him audition at an age when most people were already long into retirement was an honour and a treat. He got the part, not because he was a legend, not because he was an icon, but because he was so good, and his interpretation of the character became, for me, definitive. It was the one I put into the novel.

Earl had been a trailblazer as a performer on film and on television in the 1950s and 1960s. He had come to the UK from Jamaica during the Second World War, as a sailor, and had stayed, and become an actor. He was one of the first UK actors to "break the colour bar", one of the first black actors in Doctor Who, a mainstay of cinema and television, always acting with grace and moral authority. Now we were fortunate enough to have him and his compassion and his gentle humour, acting away in monkish robes in muddy cellars, chilly vaults, and deserted churches, all over London.

In 2017, BBC Radio 4 (in the shape of Dirk Maggs and Heather Larmour) did a glorious audio adaptation of Anansi Boys, and it did my heart so much good to see Earl Cameron over 20 years on, and to catch up and to reminisce about the Neverwhere cold and the mud. He played a dragon in Anansi Boys. He was 100 years old then. (That's us, in the studio hallway, in the photo above. It was taken by Dirk.)

He died, yesterday, aged 102, nearly 103. The world is a lesser place without him in it. 

Labels: , ,