It's no secret that Hollywood has had some problems when it comes to their casting decisions. For example, the casting of Scarlett Johansson in "Rub & Tug" for the role of Dante "Tex" Gill, a transgender man, or Jeffrey Tambor in "Transparent" as a trans woman. And let's not forget Emma Stone in "Aloha" where her character, Allison Ng, is supposed to be of Hawaiian and Asian heritage, something Stone clearly is not.
Their poor choices are nothing new. For years Hollywood has been casting white actors to represent characters of different races. In the 1965 film version of "Othello," Laurence Olivier donned blackface, and John Wayne played Ghengis Khan in "The Conqueror." But what about when it comes to actors portraying someone with a disability?
Freeform's newest series, "Everything's Gonna Be Okay," seems to be taking steps in the right direction. The series follows Nicholas and his two half-sisters after their father passes away. Something that sets the sisters apart is one, Matilda, who happens to have autism. Matilda, played by Kayla Cromer, is clearly a standout character in the show, but what makes the show even better is that Cromer is autistic.
Back in March, she announced at the Freeform Summit that she struggles with a hidden disability.
"I have learned to trust the journey, and this event is the perfect place for me to come out publicly for the first time that I'm actually on the autism spectrum,"
This casting is similar to ABC Family's "Switched at Birth," which cast Katie Leclerc, who has Ménière's disease, which leads to hearing loss, as one of the lead roles and Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin who also happens to be deaf. The show, which premiered in 2011, opened up a national discussion about the deaf community and the portrayal of disabilities on the screen. One can hope "Everything's Gonna Be Okay" follows suit.
In 2013, Maysoon Zayid, an actress and comic with cerebral palsy, delivered a Ted Talk titled "I got 99 problems... palsy is just one." During her talk, she recalls a time in college at Arizona State University when the theater department produced a show called "They Dance Real Slow in Jackson," which is about a girl with CP. Yet despite this, Zayid didn't get cast because the theater director said they didn't think she could do the stunts, to which Zayid responded, "Excuse me, if I can't do the stunts, neither can the character."
One of the most prolific quotes Zayid says is, "Disability is as visual as race. If a wheelchair user can't play Beyoncé, then Beyoncé can't play a wheelchair user." Hollywood needs to start making better choices and casting people that have first-hand experience with disabilities, race, or gender identity.
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