Diversity and inclusion are two important topics gaining attention in the film industry right now, but it’s no secret that disability is still overlooked by Hollywood.
One in five people have a disability, but we don’t see that reflected on our screens!
Recently released Hollywood films such as The Shape of Water, Breathe and Wonder all have a lead character with a disability. And yet, none of the actors who play these characters actually have a disability.
So we’ve come up with a list of films and television shows that feature actors who are Deaf or have a disability, because authentic representation matters!
A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place, an American horror film directed by John Krasinski, is currently playing in cinemas. The film follows a family who must live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. In order to stay safe the family uses American Sign Language to communicate.
The film features 15-year-old Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds who says the film “is a win for the Deaf community.”
She hopes the film will “inspire directors and other screenwriters to include more Deaf talent and be more creative in the way they use Deaf talent… Not only Deaf actors, but other disabled actors as well.”
Speechless is an American comedy show about the family of a teenager with cerebral palsy. It’s one of the few television shows to put a character with disability at the centre of its narrative and, in an even rarer move, the character is played by an actor who actually has cerebral palsy. Speechless is funny, relatable and definitely worth watching!
Actor Gaten Matarazzo stars in the popular Netflix science fiction horror series, Stranger Things, as Dustin, a character who quickly became a fan favourite. Gaten has cleidocranial dysplasia, a genetic bone condition, which affects his teeth and bone growth. The 15-year-old was rejected for acting roles because of his lisp before he landed his breakthrough role on Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers, who created Stranger Things, embraced Gaten’s disability and even wrote it into his character. In fact, Gaten believes his disability helped him land the role of Dustin as the Duffer Brothers wanted the show’s characters to be unique, realistic and “not cookie cutter”. We love seeing disability represented in such a positive and realistic way!
The Silent Child
The Silent Child is an Academy Award winning short film. It tells the story of Libby, a Deaf child who is born into a hearing family. She lives in a world of silence until a caring social worker teaches her to communicate through British Sign Language. It’s an insightful short story, inspired by real life events; made even better by the fact the lead actress is adorable Maisie Sly, a six-year-old Deaf actress.
Silent Witness is a British crime series and the world’s longest-running crime drama. The series focuses on a team of forensic pathology experts and their investigations into various crimes. One member of the team is Clarissa, a lab assistant who just happens to use an electric wheelchair. Clarissa is played by actress Liz Carr. She is a well-known stand-up comedian, broadcaster and international disability rights activist.
Actor RJ Mitte is an American actor best known for his role as Walter ‘Flynn’ White Jr. in the drama series Breaking Bad. Like his character on the show, he has cerebral palsy. After working as a film extra RJ decided to take acting lessons and shortly after he was offered his breakthrough role in Breaking Bad.
Liam Bairstow became the first actor with Down syndrome to become a regular on Coronation Street and has now been playing the character of Alex for over three years. But Coronation Street producer Stuart Blackburn made it clear that Liam got the role on his own merits as an actor and not because he has Down syndrome. “It’s not some politically correct thing. We found a really great actor with a wonderful sense of timing,” he said. There have been a number of characters with disability on Coronation Street throughout the years. Izzy has been portrayed by actress Cherylee Houston since 2010. Cherylee has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and, like her character, she uses a wheelchair.
Game of Thrones
Actor Peter Dinklage portrays the character of Tyrion Lannister in the fantasy drama series Game of Thrones. Peter was born with achondroplasia, a common form of dwarfism.
Switched At Birth
Actress Katie Leclerc, who plays a Deaf character in Switched At Birth, has a hearing impairment and is fluent in American Sign Language.
Push Girls is an American reality television show that follows four friends who are all wheelchair users. Do you have a favourite film or tv show featuring an actor with disability that is not mentioned here? Feel free to hit us up on Twitter or Facebook by tagging @ewtipping with your recommends.