When it comes to the conversation of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood, representation of the disabled community is becoming more and more front and center. Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer has joined the Ruderman Family Foundation to call on the film and TV industry to increase the casting of people with disabilities — this includes on-screen roles that portray characters with disabilities.
In a new PSA, released by the Ruderman Family Foundation, Spencer traces the history of misrepresentation of marginalized communities in Hollywood. Women weren’t allowed to perform on stage while white people used to portray Black, Asian and Native American characters. In the past two decades, LGBTQ+ stories are just now being folded into mainstream film and TV.
“All of these communities of people had to endure not only their stories being told inauthentically, but also seeing themselves portrayed inauthentically,” said Spencer. “But nothing can replace lived experience and authentic representation.”
She continued, “That’s why it’s imperative that we cast the appropriate actor for the appropriate role, and that means people with disabilities as well. Casting able-bodied actors in roles for characters with disabilities is offensive, unjust, and deprives an entire community of people from opportunities.”
“There is no reason that we should continue to repeat the same mistakes of the past,” she said. “Together, we should and can do better.”
“Octavia Spencer embodies Hollywood’s vast potential to serve as a powerful catalyst for positive social change if studio, production, and network executives commit to more inclusive and authentic representation,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “We are gratified that Ms. Spencer has joined our call and we look forward to have other actors and actresses, filmmakers, producers and studios to continue to create unprecedented momentum that brings about greater casting of people with disabilities.”
Spencer joins the ongoing efforts of the Ruderman Family Foundation for the inclusion and authentic representation of people with disabilities in film in TV. In December, the organization wrote open letter calling on studio, production, and network executives to pledge to create more opportunities for people with disabilities. Among those who signed the pledge were George Clooney, Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston, Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly and Eva Longoria.
In June 2019, CBS became the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge to commit to auditioning actors with disabilities while the BBC pledged to implement more authentic representation of people with disabilities on screen. The Foundation also released a white paper showing that half of U.S. households want accurate portrayals of characters with disabilities, and despite that only 22% of characters with disabilities are authentically portrayed on television.