A study was recently released which reported that portrayals of disability in TV shows by actors with disabilities jumped from 5% to 12% between 2016 and 2018. This means that nearly 90% of characters with disabilities are portrayed by actors without disabilities.
But there are still reasons to celebrate increased representation in the media. CBS has signed a pledge with the Ruderman Family Foundation to audition actors with disabilities for greenlit series. While they are still the only media network to have done so, it seems likely other networks and studios will follow suit.
There are authentic representations to enjoy, and that’s what we’d like to highlight today. So here are a handful of shows and films which feature actors with disabilities.
This Close (Sundance Now) – The first series to feature deaf showrunners, This Close is a dramedy series about the lives of two twenty-something best friends, Kate and Michael, who live in Los Angeles. Not only are the showrunners/stars deaf, so are at least 25 members of the cast and crew. The show’s title was itself taken from a sign, and the show portrays not only the characters’ daily triumphs and heartbreaks, it also grapples with their experiences of living in a hearing world.
Speechless (ABC/Hulu) – Although the series was cancelled in 2019 after three seasons, Speechless was a well-regarded comedy starring Minnie Driver as the mother of JJ, a non-verbal son with cerebral palsy, played by actor Micah Fowler, who does have cerebral palsy. The show has the feel-good moments we’ve come to expect in a family sitcom, but Speechless is notable for how much fun it lets its characters have as they deal with the very real challenges of living with disability.
Ramy (Hulu) – Ramy Youssef recently won a Golden Globe for his semi-autobiographical portrayal on his comedy series, Ramy. It’s a great series with a talented cast that includes Youssef’s real-life friend Steve Way as his charater Ramy’s best friend. Way has muscular dystrophy, and his sharp humor adds innumerable laughs to the series. More importantly, Way’s portrayal is a refreshingly normal one. His character isn’t depressed or downtrodden by his disability, and he simply lives his life (albeit hilariously) from episode to episode.
Have you watched any of these shows? What did you think of them? Let us know in the comments!