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Acting with a Disability

By Lukie Marriott

There are many actors with disabilities who have major roles in movies and television. Many are advocates for people with their same disability.

  • Silent Witness: Season One

    2014

    Liz Carr is a disability rights campaigner and comedian who has toured the world with her award-winning comedy, cabaret, and one-woman show. In 2012, she joined the cast of the British thriller series, Silent Witness, as Clarissa Mullery, a forensic examiner. Carr has been in a wheelchair since the age of seven.

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  • A Quiet Place

    2018

    Actor Millicent Simmonds has proven her belief that the deaf can do anything they want if they work hard. She hopes that more directors will think creatively and use people who have hearing impairments, as director John Krasinski did in this nerve-racking horror movie (that is, appropriately, about self-empowerment). Simmonds also stars in Todd Haynes's 2017 family film, Wonderstruck, based on the book by Brian Selznick.

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  • Stranger Things: Season 1

    2017

    The character of Dustin Henderson, in this Netflix retro sci-fi drama, is played by Gaten Matarazzo, who was born with cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD). The condition was written into the part he plays. Matarazzo uses his fame to bring attention to CCD and raise money for CCD Smiles.

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  • The Rider

    2018

    Brady Jandreau, who plays a character based closely on himself, suffered a serious head injury as a rodeo bronco rider. In this beautifully filmed and moving story, Brady's best friend, injured in a car accident, was even more severely injured. Lane Scott is wheelchair-bound and signs to communicate. Director Chloe Zhao said her script for Lane was pretty somber but he lightened it up with jokes. The scenes between him and Brady are luminous. Brady's sister Lilly, who has autism, is also in the film.

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  • Keep the Change

    2018

    Samantha Elisofan (Sarah) was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. She sings with perfect pitch, graduated cum laude from Pace university, and performs with inclusive theater companies. Her mother, Marguerite Elisofan, wrote a memoir about raising twins when one has autism. Costar, Brandon Polansky (David), also has autism. This wonderful comedy is quirky and sweet, and yes, you will get to hear Elisofan sing.

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  • Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season

    2012

    Peter Dinklage has won four awards for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. His entire acting career, thus far, has been a series of successes, from The Station Agent, Elf, Death at a Funeral (both the English and American versions), X-Men: Days of Future Past, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, My Dinner with Herve, and more. He's done multiple voice-overs and television roles, such as in Nip/Tuck and Entourage. Dinklage has dwarfism and, while his acting career may seem to be charmed, he did initially turn down roles that he was afraid would have typecast him as a magical being!

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  • Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season

    2009

    RJ Mitte has cerebral palsy, but not as severely as the character he plays, Walt White, Jr. For that role, he actually had to learn how to slur his words and use crutches, which he had used as a child. The actor and fashion model is dedicated to advocating for people with cerebral palsy, working with many organizations, including Shriners Hospitals for Children. He speaks out against bullying and prejudice.

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  • Speechless: The Complete First Season

    2018

    Micah Fowler plays a teen with cerebral palsy, in this sensitive and irreverent family comedy. Fowler uses a walker and wheelchair, but unlike his character who can't speak, he does have use of his voice, which he uses to be an ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. The Speechless creative team received, among other awards, the 2016 SAG-AFTRA Disability Awareness Award.

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  • Children of a Lesser God

    2000

    Profoundly deaf since the age of 18 months, Marlee Matlin won an Academy Award for her screen debut for this film at the age of 21. For Matlin, "the handicap of deafness is not in the ear; it is in the mind," and she has never let it stop her. As a spokesperson for the National Captioning Institute, she testified at a congressional hearing in 1993 and helped pass a law requiring TV sets to be manufactured with built-in chips for closed captioning. Matlin has had roles in Picket Fences, The West Wing, The L-Word, Switched at Birth, Quantico, The Magicians, and more.

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  • The Color of Paradise

    2000

    In this Iranian film, blind actor Mohsen Ramezani plays Mohammad, a lively, ambitious boy whose father is the one who is truly blind--blind to his son's value, only thinking of him as a burden. A film for the whole family, this is a tender story of grief, love, and beauty, with a wonderful soundtrack full of the sounds of nature. Other Majidi films highly recommended are Children of Heaven and The Song of Sparrows.

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