A new report on minority representation on broadcast television finds that scripted characters with identifiable disabilities will represent only one percent of all scripted series regular characters on the five broadcast networks this fall. That’s just six characters out of 587. Of those six, only one is played by an actor who actually has a disability.
The report issued by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) examined all series regular characters expected to appear on the 84 announced scripted series airing during the 2010/11 broadcast network television season. Called “Where We Are On TV,” the annual report in the past has noted characters’ gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. For the first time this year, a disability category was included.
“Among people with disabilities, where we are on TV has always been a mystery, and as this report clearly shows, mostly invisible,” said Anita Hollander, chair of the Tri-Union Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People With Disabilities (I AM PWD) Campaign of Actors’ Equity Association, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Screen Actors Guild.
The six series regular characters with disabilities listed by the report were: The title character on House (Fox), who uses a cane; Dr. Remy “Thirteen” Hadley on House (Fox) who has Huntington’s Disease; Artie Abrams on Glee (Fox), who uses a wheelchair; Saul on Brothers & Sisters (ABC), who is living with HIV; young Max Braverman on Parenthood (NBC), who has Asperger’s syndrome; and Dr. Albert Robbins on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (CBS), who has a prosthetic leg.
Of the six, only one is played by an actor with an identified disability: Robert David Hall, who portrays Dr. Robbins on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
The survey found more participation by actors with disabilities in continuing network guest roles, including two women with Down syndrome who appear on Fox’s Glee.
“Compared to series regulars, there is definitely more gender variety and more authenticity in casting recurring characters,” said Hollander. “This suggests that producers and writers are showing a guarded interest in being inclusive of characters with disabilities being portrayed by actors with disabilities.”
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