Los Angeles, July 8 – Family doctor turned TV writer, David Renaud has fought his way to the top of the Hollywood industry. Now as supervising producer of ABC’s The Good Doctor, Renaud looked back on his journey with the RespectAbility 2021 Summer Lab participants.
For Renaud, story is king and he credits his unique story for the position he holds today. Renaud always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker, but his journey was unconventional as he started out in medical school determined to find the cure for his paralysis. After a car crash left him paralyzed from the waist down, Renaud began using a wheelchair, and eventually went on to earn his MD from the University of British Columbia. Renaud was always a storyteller and eventually found his way to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he completed his MFA in screenwriting. Since then, Renaud has found huge success as a writer on shows such as Blood and Oil, Pure Genius, and most recently The Good Doctor.
“I got here because I used my experiences as a writer…I used my life’s experiences to establish and sell myself as a writer. I wrote what I know,” explained Renaud to the Respectability Lab participants. Renaud’s experience as a medical doctor, as well as a writer with a disability, made him stand out from the rest when applying for his current job at The Good Doctor. “You would think that a disability is a disadvantage, but yet I got my job on The Good Doctor just because of my disability,” continued Renaud. The Good Doctor portrays the life of Dr. Shaun Murphy, who is an autistic surgeon who stands out from the rest. Much like Renaud, Dr. Murphy’s disability plays a large role in his success as a surgeon.
There are more than 358,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the United States, and according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, there are 17,810 new cases each year. And even before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 27 percent of people with spinal cord injuries were employed 10 years after injury. Ensuring authentic media portrayals of individuals with a spinal cord injury – including in typical roles like the doctor, judge and teacher – can help change these statistics.
Although Renaud is not part of the autistic community himself, he is on a mission to create authentic representation in the writer’s room. “At some point in my career, my goal is to have a writer’s room. And when I have my own writer’s room, I’m going to have half my writers be people with disabilities because I care about those stories and they are personal to me.”
RespectAbility’s third annual Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities brings authentic and diverse portrayals of people with disabilities to the screen by creating a pipeline of diverse professionals with disabilities behind the camera. Participants include people with physical, cognitive, sensory, mental health, and other disabilities ranging in age from people in their 20’s through their 50’s. Lab alumni from 2019 and 2020 currently work for a variety of studio partners including Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, and The Walt Disney Company, as well as in writers’ rooms for Netflix’s Mech Cadet, CW’s 4400, and Showtime’s Dexter, among others. Others have had films featured at festivals such as SXSW and participated in additional career track programs including with Film Independent and Sundance Institute.