Interview: Actress Teal Sherer

Interview: Actress Teal Sherer

I am so thrilled by what I have to share with you today!  My guest today is my girl-crush, a woman I admire very much.  I’m honored she spoke with me and answered some questions for the website.  Ms. Teal Sherer is an actress who has been appearing almost every where I look lately.

BIO

Raised in Lenoir City, Tennessee, Teal Sherer is an actress, producer and an activist for performers with disabilities. Teal became a paraplegic at the age of fourteen when she was involved in a car accident. With the support of family and friends and a great rehabilitation program she became fully independent in her wheelchair. She went to college at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta where she caught the acting bug. While there, Teal was cast in her first film, HBO’s Emmy Award winning Warm Springs, where she also served as an advisor to Kenneth Branagh.

 

Teal is best known for playing “Venom” in Felicia Day’s hit web series The Guild. She also starred in the popular Liberty Mutual “election” national commercial where she portrays a woman who doesn’t let some setbacks stop her from getting to the polling place to vote. Teal has produced and performed in numerous stage productions. She starred as Catherine in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof, which received rave reviews. Teal also performed alongside Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, James Cromwell, Rosario Dawson, and Richard Schiff in American Voices at The Broad Stage.

 

Teal was recently honored with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Acting Award/Scholarship at the 2011 Media Access Awards hosted by Marlee Matlin.
www.TealSherer.com

 

 

And here is Teal herself, answering my questions! I’m no journalist, so I don’t know if my questions might be a little off-beat…

1) What first got you involved or interested in acting? 

I went to college at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, and majored in Communications with plans to go into broadcasting. I had to take a theatre class as part of my major and it was love at first sight. I had the most amazing professor who was so encouraging and supportive and didn’t treat me any differently cause I was in a wheelchair. He cast me in my first play, THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA. The character I played wasn’t written as being someone with a disability but it didn’t matter. I think the wheelchair (even though there was no mention of it) added another dimension to her.

2) What was the process like for getting the part in Warm Springs? 

I was living in Atlanta and had recently graduated from college when I got a call from my agent that I had an audition for the film. Because they were filming in Atlanta they wanted to cast some of the smaller roles with local actors (it’s cheaper as they don’t have to pay travel expenses and it also can give a film a more authentic vibe if you use locals). The casting director put my audition on tape and sent it to the producers in Los Angeles. I didn’t hear anything at all for at least a month (patience is something you learn really quickly in the business). And then I got a call from my agent that I had gotten the part. I was ecstatic and did a happy dance.

3) Is there a moment that you would describe as a “big break” for you or are you still waiting on that? 

I’m still working towards that “big break” and I know everything I’m doing is inching me closer to it. In 2008 I was cast a series regular in the NBC pilot “I’m with Stupid”. Unfortunately, the show didn’t get picked up. It sucked to come that close. But it’s just made me work harder. I learned a lot from that experience.

4) What is your favorite thing about acting? 

The diversity of it. Every project is different. You’re always working/collaborating with different people and exploring new characters and new worlds. As an actor I’m always learning, researching, and asking questions. It’s like I’m an explorer and I love that. It also opens your eyes to different perspectives.

5) These days it seems like everywhere I look, you’re there. It’s awesome! How many projects are you working on? Please tell us a little about each one. 

The major thing I’m working on right now is figuring out the future of MY GIMPY LIFE. We’re pursuing web and TV development opportunities and may even produce a season 1 online ourselves.

I’m in two short films, TRANSEINTS and COLLSION that should be hitting the film festival circuit soon so I’m looking forward to promoting them.

I’m also in a really cool pilot called ONE SHARP GIRL that is premiering at the Beverly Hills Film, TV, and New Media festival at the end of the month.

I also recently did the voice over for one of the main characters in a really cool animated pilot called CAPTAIN WILCOX VS. THE END OF THE WORLD.

Besides that I’m always pursuing acting work, producing other little projects for myself (like the ORACLE ADDRESSES THE DC COMICS REBOOT [see video below] that I did), and sometimes I help my friends produce things. For example, I’m currently producing a promo for a feature film that my friend wrote.

6) What do you like to do in your spare time (assuming you have any!)? 

I love to read, watch films and tv/web shows (currently I’m obsessed with Breaking Bad), go wine tasting, work out, and play video games (I’m currently playing Pyschonauts).

7) What was it like creating My Gimpy Life? What is the process for writing and producing your own show? 

The best thing about creating MY GIMPY LIFE is that I was in complete control (control is something you have very little of in this industry.) I’ve had the idea for the show for a while but I’m not really a writer and needed help. Felicia Day (creator/star of THE GUILD) recommended that I work with Gabe Uhr, who is a really funny, talented writer who had worked behind the scenes on THE GUILD. Gabe and I met for breakfast and we immediately hit it off. We have a similar sense of humor, and even though he didn’t know a lot about disability in the beginning, he totally got it. It was so much fun collaborating with him on the show and he wrote an amazing pilot. We brought in the awesome Sean Becker (who directs THE GUILD) to direct and filmed the six and a half minute pilot in two days. It was a lot of work, but was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

8)8 ) What is your long term goal? What accomplishments would make you feel like you had achieved everything you wanted? 

My long term goals are being a series regular on television series, having a successful series that I am a creator/producer of, producing and starring in an indie film, and having several nice supporting roles in studio feature films. I would also like to play a super hero and be in a Gap commercial. Through all of this I will continue advocating for people with disabilities and I also would like to have a family.

9) It appears to me that more male characters with disabilities are represented in TV, movies, and books. Do you find that to be true? If so, what do you think causes it? 

I totally agree with you. I’m not sure what the cause is but in general aren’t there more male characters then female characters? I don’t necessarily think that it’s something specific to just disability. Since the beginning, the entertainment industry, and even our society, has been run by white men so their voices have always been more prevalent. Though we are seeing more female writers, producers, directors, studio execs, etc… there is still a lot more work that needs to be done.

10) What do you think drives you to accomplish all that you do? 

That’s a good question. I honestly can’t imagine not doing it. Since I can remember, I’ve been driven. I grew up with parents that instilled me with a confident, I can accomplish anything as long as I work hard for it mentality. And I’ve always been surrounded by people who support and encourage me. It’s really important for me to know that I’m making a difference in this world and that I’m telling the story I want to tell with my life.

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What great answers!

“The character I played wasn’t written as being someone with a disability but it didn’t matter. I think the wheelchair (even though there was no mention of it) added another dimension to her.”  That is something that I really hope to see more of in the future.  I complain sometimes about characters who are written as disabled being played by able-bodied actors faking it, but I think we should also push for people who have disabilities playing roles that were not necessarily written that way.

I see some real similarities between being an actress and being an author.  The slow build to a big break is the same sort of thing.  It might look like someone is an “over night success,” but usually that success was ten years in the making.  The lack of control is similar as well.  I’ve loved doing my own publishing for my stories because of the control that it has allowed me. It’s difficult to share your artistic vision with a bunch of other people with their own ideas about what the product should look and feel like.

Good point about the male/female character difference. I hadn’t noticed, but I think it’s true that there are more male roles out there. Certainly more interesting male roles.

I can definitely relate to the drive to feel like you’re making a difference and using your life to tell the right story!

Check out Teal in these videos…

 

 

14 Comments

  1. Pamela V. Mason
    Oct 17, 2011

    Wow! Thank you Teal, for all your amazing inspiration, and you too Ruth, for bringing Teal’s story to us.
    We have family friends here in GA whose son’s legs were both amputated after an accident. He went on to wear prosthetics, became a basketball player for the US Paraplegic Olympics Team, traveled around the world, and now wears the first computerized pair of prosthetic legs developed by Shepherd Spinal Center in ATL .
    His life, like yours, took a totally different route, but nothing held him back – just like you.
    Great inspiration, ya’ll!

    • RuthMadison
      Oct 17, 2011

      It’s always wonderful to hear stories of people successfully moving forward in their lives!

  2. D. Robert Pease
    Oct 17, 2011

    Awesome! I am so headed over to kickstarter to look this up.

    • D. Robert Pease
      Oct 17, 2011

      Dang! It’s already funded. I mean, that’s great! I can’t wait to see it!

      • RuthMadison
        Oct 17, 2011

        I’m sure they can use support in other ways! Spread the trailer, let people know about it! 🙂

  3. S. Wazir
    Oct 17, 2011

    Great intervie Ruth! Teal sounds like such an amazing and inspiring person. I really hope to get the chance to meet her and you someday.
    Keep up the good work Ms. Madison!!

    • RuthMadison
      Oct 17, 2011

      I can’t believe you used the word “inspiring”! 😛

  4. Elizabeth McClung
    Nov 2, 2011

    Thanks for the interview. I saw the still in youtube for My Gimpy Life and was surprised as that is my chair too – the ti-lite, with grip and ergonomic push support (also stops fingertips from getting broken), with titanium cut in for the legs to slim the leg look and drop weight at the same time. Plus spinergy wheels. Looks like they paid the $5,000 to get it right. Huzzah.

    Regarding roles. The ratio of SCI’s and the level of break is quite significant, I think it is 9 to 1 for males v. females as the kind of activities which produce SCI’s are more common for males, and a particular type of male. So that is reflected (though often females are shot, particularly in still ads, like an optical eyeglass company, even if the store isn’t wheelchair accessible, because adding a female in a wheelchair is ‘friendly’ and looks better for the company). More females use wheelchairs who don’t have SCI’s than who do, but that representation in film and TV is almost non-existant.

    I hope she does well and gets lots of projects to keep her busy. I just feel bad as I know that Comi-con is HELL for wheelchairs (the convention staff – literally the ‘red coats’ know how to deal with wheelchairs but are outnumbered 5-1 by the ‘blue coats’ which are security brought in by comi-con and studios/publishers. Wheelchairs have to check in by a sign saying ‘Handicapped’ – literally. and playing the Guild and other shows, Comi-con is almost a must. Ironically, I did not see one panel which had other than stair access for presentors, not sure how they helped Ray Bradbury in his wheelchair.

    • RuthMadison
      Nov 3, 2011

      Good point about the ratios! I didn’t think about how SCI is more common in males.

      I figured Teal was probably using her own chair! I have a hard time believing they would get it right.

      I’m saddened to hear that Comic-con doesn’t do a better job. :-/ That’s really unacceptable. My cousin was telling me the other day about going to an outdoor concert and seeing wheelchair seating all the way in the back where you couldn’t really hear and it was fenced in with a sign indicating that each person who came using a wheelchair was “allowed” one companion. He said he wouldn’t have noticed that if not for me and my constant harping about accessibility, but he said, with some awe in his voice, “You were right, segregation does exist.”

  5. nd-84
    May 27, 2012

    Did you ask Teal at all about her feelings towards devotees? Would have been interested to hear her thoughts on the matter, especially as a quasi-celeb amongst us devos 🙂

    • RuthMadison
      May 27, 2012

      I didn’t ask. I debated whether to or not. I too am quite curious about her feelings on this subject, but then I chickened out! However, I think it’s a good sign that she didn’t ignore and block me when I requested the interview! (Another well known personality did do that to me, even as I was trying to help advertise her brand).

      • nd-84
        May 27, 2012

        Thanks for the reply! That’s interesting, you should totally go back and ask, or do an audio/podcast interview.

        Who was the personality, that turned you down?

        • RuthMadison
          May 30, 2012

          It wasn’t someone that I asked for anything. Tiff Carlson who has a blog on New Mobility. I liked her blog, I recommended one of her posts, and next thing I knew (without any interaction between us) she had blocked me on Twitter. I’m literally unable to follow her. That hurt my feelings pretty badly.

          • nd-84
            May 30, 2012

            Ahh ok…Ive read her stuff, she is pretty anti-devo! 🙁

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