Monday, June 28, 2010

Okay, So Being the Only Successful Quadriplegic Actor/Writer/Producer in Hollywood Does Occasionally Have Some Pretty Cool Perks!

The hot blonde on my left is Nicole Hiltz from the popular USA crime drama "In Plain Sight." Though I was introduced to them, I don't quite remember who the other ladies were because the event we were at was sponsored by Gray Goose Vodka, and had an open bar where the booze flowed like blood from a fresh vampire bite. We were also treated to wonderful food and outrageous desserts.

As a voting member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the group who presents The Emmy Awards, I'm invited to a lot of meet and greets of the actors, writers and producers of television shows. Not only is it way cool, I am generally the only guy in a wheelchair, certainly the only quadriplegic guy at most of these functions. When I contact people I've met there, if they don't remember my name they certainly remember the "guy in a wheelchair." More importantly, my wheelchair makes my presence obvious and producers and writers are reminded that people with disabilities exist in all facets of society. It is a topic I bring up often to them, not only to promote myself, but to promote the idea in general. It's getting a little better, but there are still very few examples of accurate portrayals of us on television or in the movies. They could almost be counted on one hand.

As a member of the WGA, the Writers Guild of America, specifically the Writers with Disabilities Committee, former national chair of the Performers with Disabilities Committee in AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and a former member of the SAG, Screen Actors Guild Performers with Disabilities Committee, and it is important to me to constantly remind the movers and shakers in the entertainment industry about the importance of including disabled characters on television shows and in the movies.

When I was first injured, there were no people like me on television. No quadriplegics and barely any paraplegics, no one who looked like they were in the same boat I was. Occasionally, there would be a "sickness of the week" TV Movie about a quadriplegic, but generally they were pathetic characters who were victims. Yes, there are quadriplegics who are victims of crimes or whatever, but the dialogue wasn't realistic and the roles were not true to life, they were written by able-bodied people based on stereotypes.

To tell the truth, there were no quadriplegics on television until I appeared on Highway to Heaven. Not that I'm looking for a pat on the back, I was just happy to work and just happened to be the first. I first got on television in 1984, 26 years ago. I was sure that by now there would be plenty of us on television. I was positive that roles played by disabled performers or at least about disabled characters would be prevalent.

Oh well, I guess I will have to attend a lot more Hollywood parties and be surrounded by gorgeous women to promote positive images of people with disabilities in the media. If it must be done, it must be done...

No comments:

Post a Comment