This Close, Deaf
Actor Bryan Cranston had come under fire for portraying a character in a wheelchair in the film, "The Upside." The show, "This Close" avoids casting able-bodied actors as characters with disabilities, as actor Josh Feldman, who is deaf, plays deaf character Michael. (Photo: Martin J. Kraft via Wikimedia Commons)

‘This Close’: Getting People with Disabilities on the Big Screen

The show “This Close” is set to open its second season. It begins as one of the main characters, who is deaf, is rushed to the hospital. The episode invites the audience into the frustrating world of a deaf person trying to get his or her point across in a high-stakes situation.

In “This Close,” Michael (Josh Feldman) has to wait for his best friend who is also deaf to threaten a lawsuit by the ACLU if the hospital doesn’t provide a translator. For the two actors, who are the co-creators of the show, this scene is all too relatable. Both of them are deaf and have bucked the trend of Hollywood excluding people with disabilities.

“For the two of us, that kind of experience is very familiar,” Feldman said through an interpreter of the “This Close” second season premiere, which airs September 12. “Everyone else who isn’t deaf wouldn’t have that same connection. So it was like a concurrence of story and politics that kind of came together perfectly.”

Even with its left-leaning culture, Hollywood is not known for its forward-thinking approach to diversity. Every winter tinsel town’s premier event, the Academy Awards reminds the country that white is always in for L.A. One group that is overlooked when it comes to advocacy is people with disabilities.

One of the ways this dynamic duo is trying to curb how disabilities are handled in Hollywood is to forego hiring abled-bodied actors to play rolls of people with disabilities. Ending “cripface,” a term derived from “blackface” that refers to able-bodied people pretending they’re disabled, is one of disabilities advocates’ biggest rallying cries.

Steve Way, who is enjoying a successful career as a comedian with muscular dystrophy, reflected on how this practice has affected his career as he is now the showrunner for Hulu’s “Ramy.”

“There have been countless times where I have entered an audition and the casting director just immediately wrote me off without even seeing me on camera,” Way said.

Related Article: Renken Dentistry is Helping People With Disabilities Career Opportunities in the Medical Field

The practice of cripface, though still prevalent, is getting the criticism it deserves.

Maybe the most memorable swipe is the one that Trevor Noah, friend to DiversityInc, took at Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of a character in a wheelchair in the film “The Upside.”

On Noah’s “The Daily Show,” he referenced a post made by an actor in a wheelchair, explaining that actors in wheelchairs rarely get an opportunity to play a lead role; so when a lead role of a person in a wheelchair comes up, that would be the perfect time to employ that actor in a wheelchair for both the opportunity and the real life experience to portray that role authentically.

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