‘Glee’ Guest Star Fuels Debate About Role Of Disability On Screen
The appearance of an actor who uses a wheelchair in real life on television’s “Glee” is reigniting debate about what opportunities actors with disabilities should have in Hollywood.
Fox’s “Glee” got a lot of flack when it premiered last fall for featuring a character named Artie who uses a wheelchair but who is played by the able-bodied actor Kevin McHale. Many actors with disabilities took offense to the fact that the opportunity was not granted to a person who actually lives with a disability.
But on this week’s episode the show will feature a guest spot by actor Zach Weinstein who — like the character he plays — has quadriplegia after experiencing a spinal cord injury. Weinstein says he’s not bothered by the fact that McHale plays a character in a wheelchair since he believes everyone should have an equal opportunity to earn roles.
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Other actors with disabilities, however, say they are the ones who too frequently aren’t given a fair shot. They insist that casting agents will only consider them for roles specifically written for a person with a disability, which are traditionally victims or individuals overcoming adversity. Instead, these actors say they’re looking for Hollywood to be more open-minded, allowing them to assume lead roles and perhaps appear in situations where the disability goes unmentioned entirely, reports NPR.