There has been a lot of controversy over the new show NBC is bringing out. They are re-making “Ironside” which will star Blair Underwood. I watched “Ironside” when I was a kid. Raymond Burr had the lead in this show. Some are wondering why the role for today’s “Ironside” didn’t actually go to a disabled actor. I believe that’s a good question. Most shows or movies I watch have an able-bodied actor playing disabled people. I guess the producers have their own reasons for not hiring a disabled actor. Some say if a movie has a flash back of the character before he was injured, it would be impossible for this actor to do the actual moves. Some say they can use a stunt double for those parts. I guess it is entirely up to the director. NBC declined to say if any disabled actors tried out for the role of “Ironside.” However, NBC is putting out shows that will have disabled actors in them. “The Family Guide” with slighted actor J.K. Simmons will portray a blind lawyer and “The Michael J. Fox Show” where Michael J. Fox will address his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
Here are some able-bodied actors who have played disabled characters…
Raymond Burr…The original “Ironside”.
Jon Voight…Played a paraplegic Vietnam vet in the 1978 drama, “Coming Home.”
Tom Cruise…Played a paralyzed Vietnam vet in the 1989 drama, “Born on the Fourth of July.”
Daniel Day-Lewis…Played Irish writer and poet Christy Brown who suffered from cerebral palsy in 1989, “My Left Foot.”
David Huddlestone played paralyzed millionaire in the movie, “The Big Lewbowski.”
Patrick Stewart…Played Professor Charles Xavier in the “X-Men.”
Sam Worthington ….Played Jack Sully, a paralyzed marine in the 3-D blockbuster, “Avatar.”
As I look at this list, I can see where some disabled actors could have played some of these parts. Did they try out? Were they asked to try out? Who knows… actors with disabilities say they just want a chance at some of these parts, that they should at least be given the chance to play the characters whose struggles they would personally understand.
Pam Dixon, a casting director, stated, “It’s more difficult for disabled people to find success in Hollywood. But I don’t believe it’s discrimination, but blame it on exclusion.”
I think if a disabled person is talented enough for some of the roles to play a disabled person, then give them that chance. If they don’t have the talent to play one, well that is up to the casting director. I’d like to think when they have these try-outs, that it is all fair and each actor is looked at with an open mind. As the disabled say, they just want a chance.