An actress who was recast in a TV adaptation of a JK Rowling novel because she fell pregnant has been awarded more than £11,000.
Antonia Kinlay, 34, featured in detective series The Strike, shown on the BBC and based on the Lethal White crime novels – published under the Harry Potter author’s Robert Galbraith pseudonym.
Ms Kinlay, who is the daughter of hedge fund guru Jonathan Kinlay and granddaughter of Fleet Street editor James Kinlay, believed she would reprise her role as Sarah Shadlock in the next series called Lethal White.
Although the first series only featured her for 30 seconds, her role was described as ‘pivotal’ because although engaged she has an affair with the main male character who is recently married.
She was due to feature slightly more in the second series and would have been filming for four days.
But the RADA trained Olivier award nominated actress fell pregnant between series one and two being filmed and was recast with another actress who was not pregnant.
As a result, Ms Kinlay sued the production company, claiming her pregnancy could have been hidden using creative photography.
Antonia Kinlay, 34, featured in detective series The Strike for only 30 seconds but was a ‘pivotal’ character
The series is based on the crime novel series about detective Cormoran Strike, written by JK Rowling (pictured)
But the RADA trained Olivier award nominated actress fell pregnant between series one and two being filmed and was recast with another actress who was not pregnant (stock image)
Film company bosses at Bronte Film & Television Limited said the character of Sarah Shadlock suddenly having a baby bump would have confused viewers and gone against the plot of the book.
In an email in October 2019 after shooting was due to start, producer Ruth Kenley-Letts told a representative of actors union Equity: ‘We were concerned given the nature of the storyline, that it might appear that the character was pregnant and that this would therefore raise questions with the audience as to whether Matthew was the father as well as sleeping with his best friends fiance.
‘We made the decision to recast the role to avoid this complication which is not in the book. One of our remits is to stay close to JK Rowlings novels and this would have changed significantly what JKR wrote.’
The role in Lethal White was still fairly minor, but was slightly larger than in the previous series.
The character Sarah Shadlock is described as ‘glamorous’ and works in a London auction house, dressing in a sophisticated way.
Filming was due to start in September 2019 with 60 days’ shooting to be finished by December 12 when Ms Kinlay would have been just under seven months’ pregnant.
But on July 29 that year Ms Kinlay’s agent was told she would not be recast following a meeting involving the film makers.
Two months later another actress was signed by the production company for £9,555 to play the role.
Central London Employment Tribunal heard Ms Kinlay tell the court pregnancies are often disguised in other shoots through a variety of tricks, including costume choices, camera angles and strategically placed props.
Ms Kinlay was replaced by another actress who was paid double. Ms Kinlay’s wage was £4,370, but she was replaced with an actor costing £9,555 as the character was to feature more in the next series
As a result, Ms Kinlay (stock photo) sued the production company, claiming her pregnancy could have been hidden using creative photography. An employment judge panel found in her favour and she is being awarded more than £11,000 in compensation
The production company claimed that it would have cost them £25,000 to digitally remove her baby bump from footage but the tribunal was told that combined with strategic shooting the cost would have been much less.
They also claimed there were concerns about Ms Kinlay’s health but this was also dismissed by the panel because filming would have taken place in the middle of her pregnancy, avoiding complications at the end and morning sickness at the beginning.
A panel of judges at ruled in her favour on pregnancy discrimination and found the filmmakers could have still cast her, despite not entering into a formal contract.
Employment Judge Tim Adkin said in the panel’s judgement: ‘Ultimately, we have come to the conclusion, that in the case of all of the scenes being filmed by the claimant [Ms Kinlay], bearing in mind that she would have been between five-and-a-half months to just under seven months pregnant, it would have been possible to conceal her pregnancy through the use of costume, camera angle, props, the positioning of other actors and make up if appropriate.
‘To the extent that this might constrain a director, we take the view that directors and directors of photography are subject to all sorts of practical constraints in practice, such as budget, the weather, unavailability of cast members, the geographic layout of the location.’
The scenes including Ms Kinlay’s character included a wedding scene in which she is in the background, one where she is talking to the two main characters where only her head and shoulders are viable and another where she dances with the groom.
She is then seen in a confrontation scene at an auction house, the court heard.
The Strike crime novels series was published under Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s Robert Galbraith pseudonym
The series is about a war veteran turned private investigator called Cormoran Strike (pictured: the first and the last book in the series)
The judges said it was only the argument in her office that would have posed a challenge to shoot with a pregnant actress, but that all four could have been concealed.
Judge Adkin said in the judgement published today: ‘Looking specifically at the four scenes we find that all of the scenes could have been filmed in some way to conceal the pregnancy.
‘We find that of the four scenes the confrontation in Sarah Shadlock’s office probably poses the most challenge.
‘We find that, had a combination of costume choice, camera angle and props not concealed the pregnancy, or alternatively had the director been insistent that the costume and staging reflected exactly that seen in the stills, a budget for postproduction work to conceal the pregnancy may have been required.
‘Had a director been working with a pregnant actor we find, pragmatically, that they would have filmed in a way that minimises the degree of post-production required.’
The court heard the overall budget for the show was £8.5m with daily shoot costs in the range of around £80,000 to £100,000.
Ms Kinlay’s wage was £4,370, but she was replaced with an actor costing £9,555, the tribunal heard.
The panel added in their judgement: ‘While we acknowledge this risk of becoming unwell due to pregnancy, we find it was minimal.
‘It seems to the tribunal that the principal risk affecting a pregnant actor’s ability to perform would be morning sickness.
‘The filming window in this case did not fall at the beginning of pregnancy where morning sickness typically occurs.
‘The filming was not in the final two months of the claimant’s [Ms Kinlay] pregnancy where she might be expected to be physically struggling or likely to be very tired.’
Ms Kinlay, trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, was awarded £6,000 for injury to feelings and £4,370.75 for loss of earnings as well as £1,261.22 interest, totalling £11,691.97.
Tonight Bronte Film and TV said they were ‘disappointed by the tribunal’s decision’ and vowed to appeal it.
‘The decision not to cast Antonia Kinlay was made wholly in good faith,’ a statement said.
‘We concluded that there was a genuine occupational requirement for the actor playing the role of Sarah Shadlock not to be visibly pregnant given the role she would be required to play, the scenes she would be required to appear in, and the nature of the storyline, which we believe could not be adapted to accommodate an actor in the visible later stages of pregnancy.
‘We would welcome clearer guidance in the industry around occupational requirement.’