Casting Directors: You Don’t Have A Leg To Stand On!

(Pun Intended!)

There are actors who have disabilities. And yet when it comes to casting shows and movies, 99% of the time the actors are able bodied and pretend to have the disability of the character in question. This is a problem because this actor usually has no knowledge of what it’s really like to have the disability and so their performance is often cliched to the point of being painful to watch. It’s also a problem because people who actually have disabilities remain invisible and true diversity is not represented in our media.

And it’s not just roles specifically written for characters with disabilities. I read an interview the other day with an actress in the UK who is a wheelchair user. She auditioned for a small part as a secretary who sits behind a desk the whole episode. She was told they couldn’t hire her because the part wasn’t written with a wheelchair user in mind! How stupid is that?

The excuse that I hear the most often is that it’s hard to find an actor or actress with the appropriate disability.

I’m calling BS on that. You know why? Because I’ve been watching Orange Is The New Black.

There they have a transgendered character. Not only did they find a transgendered actress to play the part, she even has a twin brother who came in to play her before she transitioned! If Hollywood can find a combination like that, I have no doubt that they could also find a paraplegic actor who has a brother who could play him pre-accident (if you even really need that. I find that the majority of the time the flashback scenes and memories of being able-bodied don’t add to the story at all and could easily be cut).

So come on, Hollywood, what is your excuse now?


  1. Chie Aleman
    Aug 27, 2014

    Speaking to some actors with disabilities myself, a lot of them have told me part of the reason they’re not hired is because the crew is worried that having a person with a disability in their production will be “too difficult” or “too much work” even off camera.

    We’re seeing this change–a little–with more PWD actors being cast as extras or to play small roles normally given to able-bodied persons. We’re also starting to see a few instances where persons with disabilities are hired to play the role of the PWD in a film/TV show, but those are sadly too few and far between.

    Switched At Birth is one example in which they largely do hire Deaf and HOH actors to play those roles, though I was really disappointed in how they handled the paraplegic character this season. Firstly, hiring an actor with CP was at least a partial step in the right direction, and at least they got a few things right, like his chair and driving, etc., but other than that, I felt it wasn’t any better (or maybe, even worse, since they’ve done a good job, generally, with Deaf culture and deafness on the show), than ost other shows/films.

    A lot of people (both PWD and able-bodied) would like to see this change, but it’s slow. I know Peter Decklage (sp?) has played a few roles that didn’t call for a “little person,” and it would be great to see a lot more of that.

    Attitudes are slow to change, though. Even with regards to race and sexuality, and disability is still such a mystery to most people. It’d be nice if a show like Switched at Birth (but featuring a para or character with CP) in a main role could maybe educate people. I’m looking forward to The Red Band Society, though I’m not sure how well they’ll represent disability/illness on it. We’ll see. Fox isn’t known for impressing me with its writing.

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 31, 2014

      I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see Peter Dinklage in X-Men. It was clearly a role that had not been written for a little person or someone with a disability and his different stature was never mentioned. I loved seeing that.

  2. Grant Riddle
    Nov 30, 2016

    Hello Ruth,
    Been a while since I contributed comments to you.

    Recently viewed a TV special from BBC on YouTube that included a few seconds of your interview regarding devotees. The comments added afterwards were very telling, including your comment that your hour-long interview was edited down to be only a few sound-bites containing negative comments. Typical method of treating anything regarding attraction to disability. The contents of my book “Amputees & Devotees” is still valid. You can find it on Amazon Kindle now, an updated version. I also now have several disability “novels” on there. Tried to get the story “The Contessa” accepted for a movie, even had the actress arranged, but no luck. If you are interested I can submit my most recent “novella” to you for publication on your website. These are mostly short stories.

    You should publicize that BBC YouTube program. Anything related to amputee attraction must be done in a pejorative manner. Even AmputeeOT was edited, and no one with a kind attitude made it through.

  3. Grant Riddle
    Nov 30, 2016

    By the way, my articles published on the website contains many discussions of the nature of amputee attraction and devotees. Of course the origin behind the attraction is quite different between men and women. Childhood curiosity triggers a sexual relationship once puberty is entered. Check it out. You can access them through my website.

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