The President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach & Engagement hosted a Performers with Disabilities: Inclusion, Authenticity & Allyship livestream on July 28. Secretary-Treasurer Camryn Manheim moderated the panel, which included SAG-AFTRA Performers With Disabilities Chair Anita Hollander (Law & Order: SVU); New York Local Board member and New York Local Performers With Disabilities Committee Chair Christine Bruno (God Friended Me); SAG-AFTRA members Ryan Haddad (The Politician), Nic Novicki (Boardwalk Empire), Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead) and Marilee Talkington (See); and Casting Society of America President Russell Boast (Chance).
The discussion coincides with the 30th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. For the panel, a major focus was the portrayal of persons with disabilities by non-disabled performers and its effects on how the media and industry views the community overall.
“Disabled [performers] are often not allowed to play ourselves because disability is often seen in the industry as a technical skill or a bag of tricks … [and] many fellow actors get awarded for their performances,” said Bruno. “But we’re here to tell you that disability is not a technical skill. It’s a lived experience.”
While Ridloff and Talkington discussed how they’ve incorporated their real-life experiences into their performances, Novicki, Haddad and Hollander also encouraged people with disabilities to create their own productions, citing it as a means of creating opportunities to work on more mainstream productions.
Said Novicki, “As a little person, I learned pretty quickly that I was going to have to write my own stuff … to say, ‘This is me as a gangster.’ And work leads to work; I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of roles that don’t focus on me being 3-feet-10.
“So, I would say if you haven’t been able to play the kind of role you want to play, try to do it yourself. Now’s the time.”
View the presentation below or click here, and be sure to visit the SAG-AFTRA YouTube Channel to watch previous panel discussions and the newly launched Race & Storytelling series.
The views expressed by the guests are their own and not that of SAG-AFTRA. Any mention of products or services does not imply SAG-AFTRA’s endorsement.
Photo: Panelists at the PTEOE's 'Performers with Disability: Inclusion, Authenticity & Allyship' live stream on July 28: top row from left, SAG-AFTRA Performers With Disabilities Chair Anita Hollander ; SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Camryn Manheim; Executive Vice President Rebecca Damon; New York Local Board member and New York Local Performers With Disabilities Committee Chair Christine Bruno; second row from left, member Nic Novicki, Casting Society of America President Russell Boast, and members Marilee Talkington and Ryan Haddad; bottom row, from left, member Lauren Ridloff and ASL interpreter Candace.
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