Newbury Park actress’ call to industry following ‘lack of opportunity’ for disabled people
PUBLISHED: 17:55 25 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:55 25 September 2015
An actress dreaming of the big time says she and many like her continue to face discrimination because of their disabilities.
Should disabled characters be played by non-disabled actors? A casting associate at the National Theatre thinks assumptions about who is and is not able to play any role should be quashed.
Charlotte Bevan said casting directors were “daunted” because “they aren’t aware of the different needs” of disabled people after hearing about Newbury Park actress Ellie Mason’s struggle to find work.
The debate comes after Ellie expressed concerns over the lack of disabled characters on our screens, and after non-disabled actor Eddie Redmayne played disabled scientist Stephen Hawking in A Theory of Everything.
Charlotte said: “Writers, directors, producers and casting directors need to be challenged to open their eyes to the disabled community.
“Nobody should make assumptions about the impact a disability may have on another individual’s ability to work, and indeed to take on a character.”
“Disability is such a broad term and everyone’s needs are inherently different. It is the responsibility of the industry to learn about how to accommodate these various differences.”
Ellie Mason, of Hedley Drive, Newbury Park, is calling for casting directors and modelling agencies to look past disability when hiring performers in TV, film and theatre.
The 33-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and has to use a wheelchair to get around, says her disability does not affect her ability to act.
“There should be more opportunities for disabled people,” she said.
“I want to try and change people’s perceptions of disabled people. I’m doing all I can to get my voice heard.”
The performer, who has done TV work for a skincare brands, praised soaps such as BBC’s EastEnders and ITV’s Coronation Street for using disabled actors but said it was “not enough”.
The former Newbridge School pupil said: “I have struggled to find work because of my disability and I’m frustrated – people need to look beyond my disability.
“Yes, in some ways my disability does affect me – for example with travelling and the fact I have got a carer and I need my carer everywhere I go.
“But casting directors should look beyond it.”
Ellie, who says she “always wanted to be an actress”, was once part of the Spare Tyre Theatre Company in Deptford, which works with people with disabilities but says she has since struggled to find work.
Jon Abrams, of the Redbridge Disability Consortium, said: “We are not surprised to find out that there are so many additional obstacles and hurdles that Ellie Mason has to face as a result of her impairments.
“Disabled people, like any others, can make good, bad or indifferent performers, and should be judged as such.”
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