Los Angeles – Actor Danny Woodburn was honored October 8 with the Screen Actors Guild Harold Russell Award at the Media Access Awards in Beverly Hills. He received the recognition for his union advocacy on behalf of performers with disabilities.
Woodburn is one of the most successful Little People working in the entertainment industry today and perhaps best known for the recurring role he played as Mickey Abbott on Seinfeld. He has made more than 120 television appearances, on comedies and dramas alike, and had featured roles in such films Watchmen and Death to Smoochy. He is also an accomplished stand-up comic.
In accepting the award, Woodburn said, “I was told, ‘No—you can never be a truck driver, you’re arms won’t reach around the wheel. No—you can never be a doctor; people won’t take you seriously. No—you can never be a police officer.’
“I can be all of those things. I’m an actor. I can portray them in film and someone might be inspired to ignore those nos and live their own dream.”
Harold Russell, the award’s namesake, was the first actor with a disability to receive an Academy Award for 1946's The Best Years of Our Lives.
“From its very inception over 75 years ago, Screen Actors Guild has represented a diverse membership and has long advocated non-discrimination, fair representation and inclusion,” said Robert David Hall, national chair of the I AM PWD campaign (Inclusion in the Arts and Media of People with Disabilities) in his remarks introducing Woodburn. “Today, with 54 million Americans identifying themselves as living with a disability, SAG continues that civil rights struggle into the 21st century.”
Click here to see Part 1 of Hall’s interview with Woodburn regarding his life, career and disability advocacy.
Co-sponsors were SAG, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, AFTRA, CSA, PGA, WGAW, Friends of Californians with Disabilities, the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and actor RJ Mitte.
Other award winners were:
· AFTRA Disability Awareness Award – Darcy Pohland, a successful newscaster in a wheelchair (posthumously, WCCO-TV)
· CSA Award – Robert J. Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer, for diverse casting of actors with disabilities (Glee)
· WGAW Joan Young Award – Vince Gilligan, for creating realistic characters with disabilities (Breaking Bad)
· Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award - Mike Tollin (Radio, Smallville, Coach Carter) led a group of 12 Special Olympians up Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1990, which resulted in an Emmy Award-winning film, Let Me Be Brave
· Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship – Christopher Thornton (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Brothers & Sisters), who became paraplegic in a climbing accident in 1992 and wrote and co-starred with longtime friend Mark Ruffalo in Sympathy for Delicious, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 2010
· RJ Mitte Diversity Award - Atticus Shaffer (The Middle), for an actor with a physical or emotional disability with limitations that would make an acting career seem implausible.
The awards were produced by Deborah Calla of Calla Productions.
This year’s Media Access Awards marks the 20th anniversary of the American’s With Disabilities Act. Signed in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has fostered independence, empowerment and inclusion for millions of Americans. With an aging society in America, combined with a growing number of disabled veterans, recognizing the talents of disabled persons in the entertainment and broadcast industries is even more important than ever.
The entertainment unions and guilds recognize the social impact of films, television and broadcasting, and strive for an open dialogue regarding the portrayal of disability and increased employment opportunities in front of and behind the scenes.