"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Friday, May 31, 2013

Actors with Disabilities

Andra needs advice:

Hi Lira,
I recently found your blog when I was doing some research on the legitimacy of MZA.  Thank you for your words of wisdom on them.  I ran across too many postings that would just say,"they're a scam!" without really  qualifying that statement with a reason why. Your site gave a much more balanced view.  Thank you!
Also, I wanted to get your thoughts on something. I'm new to the acting scene and I have come across several helpful tips for new actors.  However, I'm in a wheelchair and I find that a lot of the advice given is (understandably so) for a wider audience. Do you have any advice for a actress with a disability? 

Hi Andra! Thanks for reading.

You are absolutely correct that your situation is going to be different. You have a very lovely headshot and I like it a lot, but there's one thing missing. Can anyone guess what it is?

Andra, it's your wheelchair. It needs to be in your headshot.

All actors and actresses with a disability need to highlight it because that's what makes them different and sets them apart. Casting won't be able to add you for diversity to the cast if they think you are like everyone else.

You might be under the impression that you have to hide your wheelchair and that it is going to hurt you in the long run. If you hide it and you're called in for an audition you submitted yourself on for an indie film, the building casting is in might not have ramp access. That sucks. Conversely, if you don't have the chair in your headshot and you look like everyone else, casting might not call you in because they already are going to be seeing 20 other straight haired brunettes. But hey! An actor in a wheelchair could definitely play the teacher in this role! And all of a sudden, you're another option to go.

It's true that the roles you will be able to play are going to be limited, but you can open up the options by showcasing the very thing that makes you different. So: highlight your chair. That's your thing, girl. Celebrate it!

There are some very good agencies out there who will rep you if you are a good actor. I Googled "los angeles talent agencies disabilities" and KSR and Affinity came up (They are NOT the only ones who will consider repping you). When you submit to your target agencies, make sure your headshot shows your chair, and write "Wheelchair" on the outside of the envelope. Not all actor submissions get open at every agency, but again, you are immediately another option and I'm sure your envelope will be opened because of this.

Also, because you offer something different, you can mail postcards to casting and they'll keep you in their files because they might only have a few, if any, in your category and they'll want to remember you.

I also found this article from Backstage from last year, and he says all the same things I am. Highlight what makes you different.

Now onto your reel: You might not have one at this point and you should probably put a few small things together. Write a scene of a teacher talking to her troubled student's parents. Film it. Write a scene of a woman on a terrible blind date. --Write whatever the heck you want! But your reel is going to be where we don't point out the chair. You don't hide it, no no. Make sure it's visible and obvious, but don't have your or any character mention it's new or unexpected. You're a teacher or a mom or on a bad date and your character happens to have a wheelchair, and I think that's going to be the majority of roles you book when you start out: co-stars and guest stars where casting says, "An actor with a wheelchair is another option."

There are, of course, going to be roles where casting will want an actress who really is in a wheelchair but those roles will be few and far between and you know this. But like I said, I think you'll be going out for a lot of roles that aren't specifically written for a disabled actress, which is kind of awesome. Be a good actress first and foremost, and the rest will fall into place.

Good luck!



  1. Andra's problem was highlighted for me just now when I googled for an agency representing disabled actors and couldn't find one. Apparently, there is no agency in New York anyway that specializes in this. So first of all I want to thank you for bringing up the problem Lira and if possible, I'd like the contact information for Andra. My name is Troy Acree.

  2. I can be reached at faustwriter@gmail.com

  3. Hollywood should create more roles for actors/actresses with physical disabilities.

  4. Hey! I am a 16 year old girl interested in becoming an actress but I honestly don't have much money and I don't know anyone that can give me advice! Also my local theatre only casts roles for people 20+. Any and all advice will be helpful. Thank you!


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