New Episode of Cripz — Starring Role

A lot has been made of the fact that most disabled characters on television and in movies are actually played by able-bodied actors. It’s a particularly tricky question because while you’d like to believe casting directors aren’t avoiding disabled actors simply because they don’t think they can perform, it’s been noted by many in the industry that there is a perception that disabled actors are more “expensive” than those without disabilities. This is because, rightfully so, it takes longer for these actors to do wardrobe changes and sets now need to be fully accessible to accomodate the actors needs.

The frustrating part though is that in an industry focused on “the right look and fit,” disabled actors are type casted into playing disabled character…except they can’t get those roles for reasons listed above.

That’s where this week’s episode of Cripz is coming from, in the first of a three part holiday series entitled “Starring Role.”

By Jeffrey Preston

Born with a rare neuromuscular myopathy, Jeff has spent his life dedicated to advocating for himself and others with disabilities. With a PhD in Media Studies from Western University, Jeff's research focuses on the representation of disability in popular and digital culture. Jeff is currently an Assistant Professor of Disability Studies at King's University College @ Western University in London, ON.

4 replies on “New Episode of Cripz — Starring Role”

Hi Jeff, I have a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario Mediation Hearing in the spring against C of L, LTC and Voyager. Am looking for input as I don’t know what I am doing.

I have to admit, I was watching an episode of Glee, and was shocked to see the character, Artie, performing a dance during a so-called “dream scene” in the script. The scene immediately burst my bubble of hope for the future of Hollywood’s casting departments to realize that the series was not actually attempting to have a more socially diverse and inclusive cast. Any positive impressions that the show initially made on me from including a multiracial cast and showcasing young actors with musical talent that was not constrained by physical appearance were squandered after that moment. I have worked with casting departments in Hollywood and studied popular culture media critically and have discovered that the critics are not wrong. Even in reality TV, there is something seriously constructed and artificial about our plays and stories that are meant to be accurate reflections of society. The same way Erin Brockovich was not as beautiful as Julia Roberts or Marianne Pearl did not resemble Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart. Why is it that our true-to-life characters are not sufficient enough to play their own parts? I think a true-physical disability would have made a better actor because he wouldn’t have to imitate the emotions tied to personal achievement and social empowerment – he would be experiencing them firsthand. As far as the producers of the show are (shallowly) concerned about the bottom line regarding wardrobe changes and set designs, they would have made more money supporting a disabled actor in motivational public speaking engagements and charity endorsements than they ever would have saved in production costs. Cutting corners at the expense of foresight and leaving their fans disappointed makes me feel anything but Glee-ful.