Magnify the screen: We will all only benefit from casting actors with disabilities in television and film
Actors and actresses with disabilities are excluded from film and television, but authentic representation is necessary and also lucrative for productions - quality, economic and social.
On the occasion of the Day for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Chairman of the Association of Directors explains why the industry must provide equal opportunity, and lead historical change
Thursday, 02 December 2021, 00:00 Updated: 01:27
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"The Good Doctor," an original Korean series that tells the story of a young and intelligent surgeon on the autistic continuum, has been capturing Netflix's viewable series charts and viewers' hearts for a long time.
In fact, on Netflix Israel, the series has been starring for 16 weeks in a row, and even rose to 6th place only last week.
The character of autistic surgeon Sean Murphy is played by actor Freddie Heimner, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role.
Heimner, who is known to many for his role as Charlie in the movie "Charlie in the Chocolate Kingdom", does an excellent role here and holds most of the weight of the series on his shoulders.
He is sensitive, charismatic, mastering some subtle nuances of body gestures typical of people on the autistic continuum, witty and handsome.
Only one thing he is not - he is not autistic.
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The series captivated viewers, but there is one problem.
From "The Good Cop" (Photo: PR)
On the face of it, this sounds like an unnecessary requirement - why can't an "ordinary" actor play the character of an autistic doctor?
Less than a hundred years ago, white theater actors used to paint their faces and play African-American men, or play women.
Today it sounds absurd to us - how can an entire sector be excluded and replaced by white male players?
But that is the situation today.
Players with disabilities find themselves excluded from auditions, hearing refusals over and over again, which is just one part of the overall problem.
The film and television industry is not a comfortable home, to say the least, for people with disabilities.
How many directors in a wheelchair do you know?
How many blind actresses do you know?
The domino that will start the transformation
When first opening this conversation with industry insiders, questions always arise.
Does authentic representation affect the level of the game?
Is it really required?
Did the viewer notice?
Is it really economical and right for the producer of the show or film to invest efforts in locating an actor with a disability?
The answer is simple: yes, an actress with a disability will bring to the role qualities that another actress will take months to bring;
Yes, it is economic to introduce new factors into the industry that better represent reality and society;
And yes - it really is required.
Israeli society will be better reflected on the screen if more citizens can see people with disabilities leading the industry.
Eli Strucker, the first actress in a wheelchair to win the Tony Award
A fresh move in Israel, initiated by the Gesher Foundation, the Ruderman Family Foundation and the Directors' Association, calls on the entire industry, production companies and franchises to commit to authentic representation of people with disabilities on and off the set, provide equal opportunity for people with disabilities, and begin redressing this historic injustice. A similar move led by the Ruderman Foundation in the United States led to a historic change, in which the major studios signed a treaty on the subject and pledged to authentically represent people with disabilities. Two of the most successful films of 2021, "Godzilla vs. Kong" and "Quiet Place Part 2" featured actors with disabilities and rake in tens of millions of dollars, and now the hope is that more films will continue along the same line.
The change in the film and television industry regarding the integration of A. women with disabilities will not change the world, but it will lead to a change in perception and viewing of the general public, which will become a domino that will start the really big change - the integration of A. women with disabilities in all walks of life.
The writer is the CEO of the Israeli Directors' Association
on the agenda
People with disabilities