9 Celebrities Who Stood Strong Behind Disabled Actors

People
6 months ago

Around 15% of the population of the world lives with a disability, as per a 2021 WHO report. So it’s only natural that even in the film and television world, there are actors with one or more forms of disabilities. Horror stories aside, it is heartwarming to see popular celebrities making sure that these disabled actors get all the help they need to give them a fair shot.

We at Bright Side love upstanding celebrities, especially when they show their generous and fair hearts. This is how these celebrities stood behind some of the disabled actors in Hollywood and won hearts.

1. Angelina Jolie found a way for deaf actors to receive cues.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest movie, Eternals, was especially cool because, for the first time, it featured a superhero with a disability. Lauren Ridloff played Eternal Makkari and is a deaf actor in real life.

One unique challenge she faced was how to get the cue to start shooting when she wasn’t looking at the other actors. Angelina Jolie, who plays Thena in the movie, came to her rescue.

Said Ridloff: “In some scenes, I had to face a wall. As a deaf person, how do you cue me? At one point, I was sharing my frustration with Angie — Angelina Jolie — at a holiday party after a day of shooting. And she immediately made a suggestion, ’Why don’t we use a laser pen that special effects can easily erase?’ It was an ‘Aha, wow’ moment. Whenever I’m looking at a wall, the interpreters would use a laser pen to make a circle on the wall — ‘rolling, rolling, rolling’ — and once it went away, that meant, ‘Action!’”

2. Marlee Matlin threatened to quit if non-disabled actors played a deaf role.

Marlee Matlin is a deaf actor who has been seen in many roles in TV series like Law & Order: SVU and CSI before finally landing a part in an award-winning movie, CODA. CODA stands for children of deaf adults, and Matlin plays a deaf mother of a hearing child in the Sundance-award-winning movie.

While she loved the script, she almost walked out on the project when learned that the producers were planning on hiring non-disabled actors to play deaf actors. Her tactics worked and they hired more deaf actors to fill the roles of the deaf characters.

Matlin said, “So you see what happens when you make noise? You make great things happen. It won 4 awards at Sundance; the recognition has never been afforded like before. And it got an overwhelming response.”

3. Adam Sandler made sure Maysoon Zayid could access her trailer herself.

Maysoon Zayid is an American actress and comedian who was born with cerebral palsy. However, she does not let that define her, as she played Zahra Amir on General Hospital, where the character is not written as disabled. As Zayid says, “She is disabled because I, the actress who plays her, am.”

She also remembers how Adam Sandler and the production team of You Don’t Mess With the Zohan went out of their way to make the set disability-inclusive. Said Zayid: “They added a ramp on my trailer and gave me a dresser to help with costume changes. A [man] named Darryl drove me to and from the set in a silver Mercedes golf cart. It was heaven...”

4. Hailee Steinfeld introduced herself to her deaf co-star in sign language.

The second deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Echo, as in Maya Lopez, played by newbie actor, Alyqua Cox. Cox is deaf in real life and was a bit nervous about being on the Hawkeye series set for the first time.

But Cox claims both her co-stars, Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld, went out of their way to make her feel comfortable. Said the deaf actor: “I remember meeting Jeremy on my first day of work on-set; I was a nervous wreck, as this was my very first acting job. He then complimented me in American Sign Language (ASL), which comforted me. Hailee also spelled out her name to me in ASL at the studio where we were doing our stunt training sessions. I thought it was sweet of them to put in efforts to learn basic ASL to communicate with me. It means a lot to me as a deaf person.”

5. Jameela Jamil turned down a disabled role so that an actor with a disability could take it.

British actress Jameela Jamil was born partially deaf but can now hear. So when she was offered the role of a deaf woman, she turned it down.

Jamil explained, “I said it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role. I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space.

6. John Krasinski pushed to cast deaf actor Millicent Simmonds in the role of a deaf person.

When John Krasinski was making A Quiet Place, the decision to cast a non-hearing actor to play the deaf daughter was a non-negotiable choice. Enter Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actor known for Wonderstruck.

Krasinski spoke to Simmonds’ family to get a better perspective as to how hearing parents managed with a deaf child and vice versa. In the movie, when the focus shifts to Millicent’s character, Regan, the sound is off, giving the world a little perspective into what it feels like to be deaf. Krasinski recalls that when he revealed this production method to Simmonds’ mother, she broke down.

Krasinski said, “To see her mom come up to me crying as hard as she was, was the most moving experience. She said, ‘I’ve always wanted to know what the experience was with my daughter and I finally have it.’”

7. Octavia Spencer believes every disabled actor should be represented authentically.

Actress Octavia Spencer, known for movies like Hidden Figures, has struggled with dyslexia in her early years. Recently, she joined the Ruderman Family Foundation and has urged Hollywood, as a whole, to focus more on inclusivity. The idea is to hire people with disabilities to portray similar challenges on the screen.

In the 3-minute clip, Spencer said, “Casting [non-disabled] actors in roles for characters with disabilities is offensive, unjust, and deprives an entire community of people from opportunities.”

8. Jeremy Renner was happy to weave in hearing aids for his Hawk-Eye character, Clint Barton.

Jeremy Renner, who plays Clint Barton, as in Hawkeye in the MCU movies and series, is hard of hearing in real life. His comic book avatar is also shown to develop hearing loss over the years in the Disney+ series, Hawkeye, and it’s something Renner has welcomed with open arms.

Renner said, “I’m only hard of hearing, so I’m not deaf. I thought it was just a really wonderful thing, cause it is, it’s always been a part of Clint’s character in the comics, and we found a way to make it a truthful entry point for his life and how it affects [his] life. And now, there is a wonderful vulnerability that comes in.”

9. Harry Styles helped deaf co-star Lauren Ridloff know when the cameras stopped rolling.

The MCU movie, Eternals, brought in Harry Styles as Thanos’ brother, Eros. Styles immediately bonded with the cast, especially deaf actor Lauren Ridloff, who plays Eternal Makkari. Ridloff shared a little story about a deleted scene where the Eternals and Eros are sitting aboard the starship Domo, communicating with the Celestial Arishem with their eyes closed.

Ridloff said, “Chloe [Zhao, the director] would say, ’Cut,’ and every time she yelled, ’Cut,’ the interpreter would have to run around and tap me on the shoulder. So after a couple of times, Harry was just like, ’Is it okay if I just tap you and cue you when we stop shooting? I was like, ’Yeah, thank you!’ That’s just who Harry is: He just watches out, and he thinks: ’What can I do?’”

What do you think about these celebrities lending a helping hand? Which disabled actor do you remember the most in a role?

In a revealing article, Angelina Jolie discusses her unique relationships with her adoptive and biological daughters. Her candidness about the different bonds she shares with Zahara and Shiloh offers a glimpse into her approach to motherhood.

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Being Deaf is not considered to be a disability by many in the Deaf community...it's actually offensive...

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