The entertainment industry has made significant strides in the last few years to diversify and better represent marginalized groups. However, one aspect that still sparks debate is the casting of able-bodied actors in roles portraying disabled characters. This article will discuss the comments made by Kevin McHale, the controversy surrounding Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of a quadriplegic character, and the future of movies and television with disabled actors.
Kevin McHale’s Perspective
Kevin McHale, known for his role as Artie Abrams on “Glee,” a character who uses a wheelchair, spoke about his reluctance to play a disabled character. McHale, who is not disabled himself, expressed his fear that taking the role would prevent opportunities for disabled actors who could more authentically represent the character. He stated, “If I was offered the role today, I would say no. We’re at a different time now. There are far more talented people who should be playing those roles.”
This perspective emphasizes the importance of authenticity and representation in the entertainment industry. Many argue that disabled actors, who have firsthand experiences with disability, can bring an unparalleled level of depth, understanding, and accuracy to these roles.
While considering Abrams comments a couple thoughts came to mind. Yes, we want these stories of disabled characters told as authentically as possible. However, while thinking of the character of Artie Abrams I couldn’t help but think part of me was ok with this casting because in one episode Artie had a dream and was able to stand without the help of braces or any mobility device. Had an authentically disabled person been cast this would not have been possible. Therefore this storyline of a disabled person dreaming of life as an able bodied individual wouldn’t have happened. Some disabled people I know have thought about what life would be like if they were able bodied. I appreciated the exploration of this storyline.
The Bryan Cranston Controversy
Bryan Cranston, an able-bodied actor, faced criticism for his portrayal of a quadriplegic character in the 2017 movie “The Upside.” Critics argued that the role should have been given to an actor with a physical disability, as this would have provided a more genuine representation of the character’s experiences. In response, Cranston explained that as an actor, his job is to portray different people, and he believed that his performance would increase awareness and empathy for the disabled community.
The controversy raises questions regarding the balance between artistic freedom and representation. While Cranston’s intentions may have been genuine, the casting decision highlighted the ongoing lack of opportunities for disabled actors in the industry. I myself had no problem with the casting. I enjoyed his performance.
The Future of Movies and Television with Disabled Actors
As conversations surrounding diversity in the entertainment industry continue to gain momentum, it is clear that a more inclusive future is necessary. Here are some steps that can be taken:
1. Expand casting opportunities for disabled actors: The industry should actively seek out disabled talent, create accessible casting calls, and prioritize authenticity in their casting decisions to provide equal opportunities for disabled actors. One of the main problems I believe is that studios don’t actively seek authentically disabled actors.
2. Train and mentor disabled actors: Initiatives should be created to help disabled actors hone their skills and navigate the industry. Mentorship programs, acting classes, and workshops tailored to their specific needs can offer invaluable guidance and support.
3. Create diverse stories: Screenwriters and directors should make a conscious effort to develop storylines that not only include disabled characters but also portray them as multidimensional and integral to the narrative.
4. Promote disability representation behind the camera: Hiring disabled professionals as writers, directors, and producers can help ensure that the portrayal of disability on screen is accurate, respectful, and diverse.
As we push for a more inclusive entertainment industry, it is essential to critically examine the representation of marginalized communities, including the disabled community. Actors like Kevin McHale and controversies like Bryan Cranston’s role in “The Upside” shed light on the need for increased opportunities and visibility for disabled actors. By providing equal opportunities, growing talent and promoting diverse stories, we can work towards a more inclusive and representative future in movies and television.