Acting Disability | HuffPost

The debate about authentic portrayal of people with disabilities in film is hitting the headlines with the release of a number of major films relating to people with disabilities starring non-disabled actors. This season, we will see Andrew Garfield as Robin Cavendish in Breathe, the story of a man with Polio who became a disability advocate, Bryan Cranston plays a wealthy paraplegic man and his relationship with his aid in the Upside, and already making Oscar waves: Jake Gyllenhaal plays a Boston Marathon bombing victim who lost his legs in Stronger. Disability activists have long been fighting for better inclusion of people with disabilities in film.  The disability community is the most underrepresented minority in film and television, specifically, and in the population, generally. Actors with disabilities are rarely cast in roles, even when there is a role for a person with a disability, it will likely be taken by an actor looking to be highlighted during the award season. 

One of the highlights of this past March’s ReelAbilities Film Festival was an industry event aimed at discussing authenticity and the inclusion of people with disabilities in film and television. The event, which took place at JCC Manhattan, included some high-profile names and other up-and-comers, including: William H. Macy, RJ Mitte, Danny Woodburn, Maysoon Zayid, producer Mary-Kay Cook (The View From Tall, which was premiered after the panel), some major casting agents and more. The event was co-presented with SAG-AFTRA, Inclusion in the Arts, and The Ruderman Family Foundation, who are all active in creating more diversity and inclusion in media. What started as a discussion showcasing positive examples of how the film industry can become more inclusive erupted into one of the more thought provoking debates revolving around acting and minority culture. ReelAbilities Film Festival has highlighted the lack of inclusion many times; however, where the panel conversation really got…

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