Priscilla John on casting for Jewel in the Crown

So Jewel in the Crown comes along. 

Oh, yes. So then they needed a second casting director, and I hopped on to help Susie Bruffin. She was the lead casting director. And they hadn’t cast Daphne Manners. And I was working with Susan Wooldridge on a comedy called Repertory, about a repertory company. And we were in Lytham St Annes. We had such fun! And it was so Susan. And of course, she got the role immediately. Art Malik was just coming out of the Central School of Speech and Drama, and he actually couldn’t do an Indian accent, so we had to go through all that. Susie and I had done the rounds of going to theatres, and we’d seen Charles Dance in tights at the Royal Shakespeare Company, spear carrying, and thought he’d be good. Geraldine James, I think, was already… you know, Peggy Ashcroft was… Christopher Morahan did a fair share of casting himself. But we all knew people,they’d all worked at Granada. And Susie did really well getting all the Indian actors, because of course the only Indian actor from India that we were able to employ, apart from all the extras, was unemployed, because he never had to come and work in England at that time. You couldn’t bring actors to England because the unions wouldn’t allow it. And you wouldn’t be able to get a work permit if Equity complained to the Home Office. Maggie Thatcher changed all that in the 80s, if you remember. 

Did you know fairly early on that it was going to be a success? 

… No. But everybody who went out to India on that crew were Granada people, apart from the designer, Christopher and Jim. I don’t think there’s anybody else. They were all Granada people, so it was like family. And a lot of the crew didn’t want to go. But they were looked after brilliantly. And, by the way, the unions had a big say in it, so all the electricians and… I don’t know who else, carpenters and so on, they all said they were only going for half the time, so there was a split. And the creative crew, there’s about 10 of us, and the actors stayed on. And Granada gave us a holiday down in Sri Lanka. We had such a ball! And then the new crew came in. And of course, the all the crews going home were crying. They didn’t want to go home. But they wanted it. 

How long were you out there for? 

January the second through the end of May. Right. And then the following year, I went back and went from August through to the following end of April. So I spent quite a long time in India in that four-year period. Then I came back and Susie Bruffin carried on, because most of the casting had been done, but she was caretaking Jewel in the Crown from when it started back up filming in July, all the way through to the following May when we finished.

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