Why An Abled Actor Shouldn’t Play a Disabled Character

Danielle Anzures, Staff Writer

In the modern day world, most people would be outraged if the role of a colored person was given to a white actor. In fact, we’ve seen cases of outrage at casting mistakes not even more than a couple of years ago.

Films like Ghost in the Shell, Netflix’s Death Note, and Pan experienced backlash for their casting choices. Actors of color have limited roles to choose from. So when a role meant for a person of color goes to a white actor it can be frustrating.

Despite this, audiences don’t think about it the same for disabled characters. Films like Me Before You and The Shape of Water do this. The roles of disabled and disfigured characters given to abled actors instead.

The reasoning for this usually falls into three categories.

  1. “They need a big star for this role or no one would see it”
  2. “An actor with a disability/disfigurement couldn’t meet the physical demands of the role”
  3. “They cast the best for the role”

Let’s address these comments.

This may come as a shock, but not everyone in a movie/show needs to be an established actor. In fact, most pieces of visual media have multiple characters, meaning the star doesn’t need to play the disabled character.

Again another shocker, but most actors have body doubles. And if a physical demand is really dangerous there is technology available to help with that.

The best choice response is possibly the worst answer. A good portion of the time casting directors rarely even look for disabled/disfigured actors.

In The Shape of Water, the main character is disabled and disfigured, actress Sally Hawkins is neither of those. Guillermo del Toro the director and one of the writers for the movie didn’t look for anyone else.

The best person for the job wasn’t necessarily Hawkins, the director just wanted her.

Here’s the thing, an abled actor will never be able to give a more real and genuine performance for a disabled character than a disabled actor could.

Disabled and disfigured actors live what the story writers try to tell. Films and tv shows should push to have these people behind and in front of the camera.

  • 7