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Stephen Graham discusses acting career and under-representation in the industry at BAFTA masterclass

5 March 2020

During his BAFTA Masterclass, Stephen Graham highlighted the importance of providing opportunities for underrepresented voices in the film and television industry today as he shared expertise in the craft of Acting. 

London, 4 March 2020: Stephen Graham highlighted the importance of providing opportunities for underrepresented voices in the film and television industry today as he shared expertise in the craft of Acting, whilst delivering a BAFTA Masterclass, held at The May Fair Hotel on Wednesday 4 March.

BAFTA Masterclasses give a platform to the most creative voices working across film, games and television today, sharing their expertise and insights with a live audience.

The BAFTA-nominated actor hosted the masterclass to an audience of screen industry enthusiasts, including actors from BAFTA Elevate, an initiative that supports talent from underrepresented groups in progressing their careers, and helps tackle the issue of diversity in our industries as a whole. Graham had  met with BAFTA Elevate participants earlier that day, including Amir El-Masry (Star Wars), Faraz Ayub (Bodyguard), James Harkness (Wild Rose), Kellie Shirley (In the Long Run) and Rhoda Ofori-Attah (Top Boy) for a roundtable to discuss issues they face.

At the BAFTA Masterclass Stephen Graham discussed his passion and knowledge of the acting craft, having enjoyed a successful career in the industry for over 30 years. He touched on some of his best-known work including The Virtues, This is England, Boardwalk Empire, Snatch and The Irishman.

Graham's first influence, giving him the confidence to pursue a career in acting, came from a neighbour who starred in 1984 drama Scully, saying "watching Drew on the telly from an early age, I thought this could be possible. To see a man who spoke like me, and came from the same area that I was from it made it seem like acting was a possibility."

Speaking of his time on the set of Guy Ritchie's Snatch, Graham said "There was one moment where I was sat talking to Brad Pitt, he just said to me' You've got a lot of characters in you.'  For him to say that and see that in me was... wow. What I learnt from that set was playfulness. I just had a lot of fun." 

Graham also touched on times in his career when things have been more challenging: 'What I do is an honour and I feel blessed to be able to do this job. Luckily enough I've been given this opportunity, with people who believed in me from day one, they've stuck with me even when I wanted to pack it in after This is England. There was a moment there where I couldn't get a job for 8 months. [...] If it wasn't for my friends and my family I was going to pack it in and become a youth worker."

He went onto to give advice to those who might find themselves in a similar position, saying "how long do you keep pursuing what you really want to do? Never give in, try to keep going, and if you've exhausted every single avenue and you can't quite get that break, just keep knocking on doors, keep sending stuff, keep trying to get auditions." 

Graham closed his masterclass by referring  to the importance of all crafts, not just acting, saying "the magic of it for me is what everyone brings to set, and with one person not being there it wouldn't be the same."

Graham has recently committed to providing a platform for underrepresented voices, both in front of and behind the camera. This new venture, Matriarch Productions, aims to open opportunities up through offering roles to under-represented individuals in the UK. The production company hopes to develop stories from young and first-time writers and directors that offer a broader representation of different cultural aspects of our society.

Stephen Graham has enjoyed continued success following his critically acclaimed performance in the 2006 BAFTA-winning This is England, directed by Shane Meadows, together with the recent follow up Channel 4 mini-series: This is England ‘86, ’88 &‘90’, which also secured him a BAFTA Television Award nomination. Other notable credits include Jimmy McGovern’s The Street, in which he received an RTS award nomination, McGovern’s Accused opposite Sean Bean, as well as HBO’s Parade’s End with Benedict Cumberbatch. 

His television credits include Channel 4's The Virtues, ITV’s Little Boy Blue, The Watchman and the BBC’s Decline and Fall, The Secret Agent and Taboo alongside Tom Hardy. In 2018 Stephen starred in Sky’s Save Me created by Lennie James which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2019 BAFTA Television Awards.

2019 saw Stephen feature in the highly acclaimed biopic Rocketman alongside Taron Egerton playing the infamous Dick James. Stephen starred in the critically acclaimed The Irishman as  Tony “Pro” Provenzano opposite Al Pacino and De Niro.

In 2020, Stephen will star in Greyhound alongside Tom Hanks and is currently filming Venom 2 alongside Tom Hardy, and Boiling Point, a Matriarach Production. 


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Sophie Dudhill, BAFTA Press Office

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Notes to editors

Photography from the event will be available at A wider selection of images will be available from Rex Features/Shutterstock.

Recordings of previous BAFTA Masterclasses are available at 


The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) is a world-leading independent arts charity that brings the very best work in film, games and television to public attention and supports the growth of creative talent in the UK and internationally. Through its Awards ceremonies and year-round programme of learning events and initiatives – which includes workshops, masterclasses, scholarships, lectures and mentoring schemes in the UK, USA and Asia – BAFTA identifies and celebrates excellence, discovers, inspires and nurtures new talent, and enables learning and creative collaboration. For advice and inspiration from the best creative minds in working in film, games and television, visit For more, visit