In a new PSA released today, Octavia Spencer joined the Ruderman Family Foundation in calling on Hollywood to hire more actors with disabilities in an effort to increase authenticity and promote visibility. Spencer begins the PSA by asking the viewer if they can recall the first time they saw themselves represented on screen, remembering her own experience watching Good Times with her family:
Although often thought of as largely liberal, Hollywood has been slow to evolve, as Spencer highlights in a brief history of casting practices: men playing female characters on stage until 1660, white actors portraying people of color, and the absence of LGBTQ stories in film and television up until the past two decades. “All of these communities of people had to endure not only their stories being told inauthentically, but also seeing themselves portrayed inauthentically,” Spencer says. “But nothing can replace lived experience and authentic representation. That’s why it’s imperative that we cast the appropriate actor for the appropriate role, and that means people with disabilities as well. Casting able-bodied actors in roles for characters with disabilities is offensive, unjust, and deprives an entire community of people from opportunities.”
Hollywood still has a lot of work to do in both the telling and casting of diverse stories that better reflect and represent the world around us. As Spencer says, “There is no reason that we should continue to repeat the same mistakes of the past. Together, we should and can do better.”
The above PSA is the latest in a series of initiatives from the Ruderman Family Foundation, which last December released an open letter that called on the entertainment industry to hire more people with disabilities. That letter was signed by several high-profile actors, including Joaquin Phoenix, George Clooney, and Mark Ruffalo. For more information on the organization and its initiatives, visit the official Ruderman Family Foundation website.