EXCLUSIVE: The disability rights group the Ruderman Family Foundation honored the final season of the Will and Grace rebirth as well as Fear the Walking Dead, Sex Education, Emmerdale and Call the midwife with the latest series of genuine representation seal recipients.
“After witnessing significant progress on authentic casting decisions in Hollywood in recent years, we are especially pleased to see the international momentum that has been generated in this high priority area,” said Jay Ruderman, President of Ruderman Family Foundation. “With several UK series joining US productions in our latest round of award winners, it’s clearer than ever that the entertainment industry increasingly sees disability as an important part of diversity.
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The organization honors all five series because they have contributed to the growing momentum on inclusion and authentic portrayal of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.
This is the sixth time that the Seal of Authentic Representation has been awarded to television series and films. The current group of winners includes:
- NBC Will and Grace rebirth for the cast of Christopher Thornton, a paraplegic actor, as Luke, a character who uses a wheelchair.
- AMC Horror Drama Series Fear the walking dead, for choosing Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, who suffers from paralysis of the waist following a motorcycle accident 20 years ago, as Wendell, a character who became paralyzed at 10 years after rescuing another boy being hit by a car.
- The UK-based Eleven Film comedy series Sex education, which premiered on Netflix, for choosing George Robinson, a paraplegic, as Isaac Goodwin, a wheelchair character.
- UK based ITV Studios soap opera Emmerdale for choosing James Moore, who has ataxic cerebral palsy, as Ryan Stocks, a character with the same disability.
- The drama series Neal Street Production for BBC and PBS, Call the midwife for choosing Daniel Laurie, who has Down syndrome, as Reggie Jackson and Ellie Wallwork, who is blind, as Marion Irmsby, among other authentically cast roles.
“Receiving the seal of authentic representation from this Foundation is extremely significant for Will and Grace, because we are all proud to be authentic actors, especially in this new age, ”said Julie Ashton, director of the series. “Casting Christopher Thornton in our final season of Will and Grace was truly an honor. He’s a brilliant, extremely talented actor. In fact, our producers were so impressed with Christopher that they decided to bring him back after his first episode and make his role recurring. We hope the entertainment community continues this integration and that we can see more of Christopher Thornton and other talented actors on our TV and movie screens.
“Everybody has Call the midwife is absolutely delighted with this honor. For many years, we have been passionate about bringing the best of diverse and inclusive storytelling to our audiences. Appropriate casting is key, and the talents of actors who are hard of hearing or visually impaired, or suffering from diseases such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and achondroplasia, have enriched our show beyond measure, ”a said Heidi Thomas, series creator, writer and executive producer. “There is always something new to celebrate, share or learn. In turn, we would like to commend the Ruderman Family Foundation for highlighting the importance of authentic portrayal. Opening hearts begins with opening minds, and the Foundation’s mission is vital, beautiful and makes a real difference.
Fear the walking dead Casting director Sharon Bialy said Bialy / Thomas & Associates has always strived to be inclusive in their casting when it comes to diversity and disabilities. “We are incredibly proud to have chosen ‘Chill’ and have been huge fans of him for a long time,” Bialy says. “We are very proud that our showrunners and AMC are doing whatever it takes to make ‘Chill’ go without a bit of resistance. He brought his talent, his personality and his great joy to the role and to everyone who works with him.
“Receiving the Foundation’s Authentic Performance Seal is an unexpected and very special honor for us as a show,” said Ben Taylor, director and executive producer of Sex education. “We did a very thorough research into Isaac’s cast, and when George auditioned we knew we had found someone amazing who not only lived in the role, but uplifted it. We are delighted that he and the show have been recognized in this way.
Emmerdale Actor James Moore is extremely honored to receive the Seal of Authentic Representation from the Ruderman Family Foundation. He added: “I have followed them for a long time and I am very grateful for their work in continuing to advocate for fair representation of disability in the media. It’s amazing to be recognized by an international organization, especially an organization for which I have so much respect and admiration.
The seal of authentic performance is awarded when productions meet two criteria: they feature disabled actors with a speaking role of at least five lines; and they are in the process of general release or about to be. The Foundation announces the honor whenever a film or television series meets these standards. In October 2020, the previous round of winners included the television series Grey’s Anatomy, Locke & Key, little voice and A way as well as the independent film Sam and Mattie make a zombie movie.
After a study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation in 2016 found that an astonishing 95% of the show’s best characters with disabilities on television were played by non-disabled actors, a new study released by the Foundation in February 2020 documented the progress, revealing that 22% of all characters with disabilities on television on the network are authentically portrayed by an actor with the same disability. According to the new study, 20% of characters with disabilities are authentically shown on streaming services.