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Fellows Blog Series

Robia Rashid—Writer and Producer, Creator of Atypical, Calls for More Stories of Inclusion and Diversity

Winner of the 2017 Writers Guild of America, West, Evan Somers Memorial Award, Media Access Awards

Atypical's Robia Rashid standing at a podium with the sign Media Access Awards

Atypical‘s Robia Rashid

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – Robia Rashid has spent her career working on shows such as Will & Grace, How I Met Your Mother and The Goldbergs. However, Rashid spends her free time reading books full of “edgy and odd” stories that would not typically be shown on network television. Recently, Rashid wrote a pilot script, of which Netflix ordered the full season, and the show premiered this August.

Atypical is a coming-of-age comedy about a teenager with autism, Sam, who is navigating his love life as well as his relationships with his family and friends, while he strives for independence. Rashid said she wanted to write a show for herself after working in network television for so long. She told Vulture that she had been aware, when writing Atypical, that more people were being diagnosed with autism, and a whole generation would be growing up on the autism spectrum and would desire independence. Rashid thought it would be an interesting perspective from which to tell a dating story.

“I just feel so lucky and honored to tell this story that feels so personal and real and like nothing that I’ve ever written before or really seen before,” Rashid said while accepting her award. “It’s exciting to see Sam’s story resonate.”

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Amy Okuda Presents Award to Atypical Creator for Portraying Disability Narrative

Atypical's Amy Okuda standing at a podium with the sign Media Access Awards

Atypical‘s Amy Okuda

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – “Sam is a teenage boy that is looking for love and acceptance but that is what makes the show so great. Sam in every way is a normal testosterone exploding teenager; he is just one that sees life in a unique prism,” said Amy Okuda as she presented the 2017 Writers Guild of America West Evan Somers Memorial Award to Robia Rashid at the 2017 Media Access Awards.

Sam is the main character or the Netflix original series written by Rashid called Atypical. The series follows a teenage boy with autism as he navigates life and love.

The Media Access Awards honors individuals who are showcasing the disability narrative and are doing diversity right. Okuda said she was honored to be able to present an award to Atypical’s creator Rashid.

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Nic Novicki: Creating Change from Within

Winner of the 2017 SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award, Media Access Awards

Nic Novicki standing at a podium with the sign Media Access Awards

Nic Novicki

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – When actor, comedian and producer Nic Novicki stepped up to the stage to accept his honor at the 2017 Media Access Awards, he clearly was humbled.

“It feels like an Oscar to me,” he said, after mentioning how happy he was to be surrounded by his wife and his parents that morning at the only Hollywood award ceremony that recognizes individuals who are inclusively showcasing the disability narrative. He explained the awards as “like the Oscars, but with more wheelchairs and sign language.”

Novicki was just one of just nine individuals honored Friday morning at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. He received the 2017 SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award in recognition of his talent and his work as an advocate for the disability community.

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Jamie Brewer, Actress and Advocate, Shines as Media Access Awards Presenter

Nic Novicki and Jamie Brewer standing at a podium with the sign Media Access Awards

Nic Novicki and Jamie Brewer

Beverly Hills Nov. 18 — Standing in a lace gown with curled hair behind a podium, actress Jamie Brewer presented Nic Novicki with an award at the Media Access Awards (MAA), the only Hollywood award ceremony highlighting truly diverse media.

The MAAs shines the spotlight on actors, producers and directors who are showcasing the disability narrative in a positive, accurate way.

“His name is a known name in this industry,” Brewer said as she teed up to tell the audience who the recipient of the 2017 SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award was.

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Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang, Pushing the Envelope on Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood

Winner of the 2017 Writers Guild of America, West, Excellence in Writing Award, Media Access Awards

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang posed smiling

Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – At the 2017 Media Access Awards, which honor individuals who are showcasing the disability narrative, Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang received the 2017 Writers Guild of America, West, Excellence in Writing Award.

While they were not present to accept their awards, attendees witnessed their efforts to push the envelope on diversity and inclusion.

Yang and Ansari are the co-writers and co-creators of the hit Netflix series, Master of None. The series speaks to the true experiences of people like Yang and Ansari, who are first generation Asian-Americans, whose parents dealt with hardship both before and after coming to the United States. Master of None stars Ansari as a 30 year-old Indian-American actor who struggles to find parts in an industry that still lacks cultural diversity, despite its recent improvements.

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Grey’s Anatomy Star Jason George Fighting for Equal Rights of All People in Entertainment

Jason George standing at a podium with the sign Media Access Awards

Grey’s Anatomy Jason George

Beverly Hills Nov. 18 — Grey’s Anatomy actor, producer and father of three Jason George is taking off his scrub cap to put on a new hat. The actor turned activist has joined the fight for integration and equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities.

Born in Virginia, George has been nominated for both a Daytime Emmy Award as well as a Writers Guild of America Award. Prior to his leading role as Dr. Ben Warren on Grey’s Anatomy, George’s career kicked off in 1997 when he played Michael Bourne on the television soap opera Sunset Beach.

He has led a highly successful two-decade career in Hollywood and it is nowhere near over. He has been using his stunning brown eyes and white smile to captivate the attention of audiences both on and off the screen to spread messages of tolerance and acceptance. George currently is the active diversity chair of the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), a union of television and radio artists. It is through this position that he is taking steps to ensure that Hollywood is including all people.

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Fern Field Honored for Lifetime of Work Devoted to Disability Inclusion in Media

Winner of the 2017 Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award, Media Access Awards

Fern Field and Norman Lear hugging behind the poidum

Fern Field and Norman Lear

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – Producer, director and author Fern Field was awarded the 2017 Norman Lear – Gerri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award for her 45 years of service in the entertainment industry.

Norman Lear presented Field with the award. In response, she said how humbled she was to be “receiving a lifetime achievement award form someone who is responsible for my life.

Michael Keaton joined Lear and Field onstage, recalling that he starred in a short about disabilities for Field back in 1978, A Different Approach, which was nominated for an Oscar.

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Norman Lear Receives Standing Ovation at Media Access Awards

Fern Field and Norman Lear hugging behind the poidum

Fern Field and Norman Lear

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – Norman Lear co-founded the Media Access Awards to recognize and encourage the accurate portrayal of people with disabilities in 1979. In 2017, he had the honor of awarding fellow co-founder Fern Field with the 2017 Norman Lear – Geri Jewell Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Media Access Awards.

Lear and Field pioneered depictions of disability; they also hired Geri Jewell for Facts of Life in 1980, the first person with a disability on a sitcom.

Lear, who received a standing ovation during the morning awards ceremony, said 2017 is the “most successful year for actors with disabilities on TV.”

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David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman Pledge to Cast More Actors with Disabilities in Films

Winners of the 2017 Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award, Media Access Awards

David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman accepting their Media Access award

David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman accepting their Media Access award

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – “I promise you,” producer David Hoberman said at the Media Access Awards, “from now on, we will look for more stories with disabilities and to cast people with disabilities in our films.”

He and Todd Lieberman, co-owners of Mandeville Films, were awarded the 2017 Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award at the Media Access Awards, which honors individuals who are showcasing the disability narrative and are doing diversity right.

They received the award for producing Stronger, which was about an amputee and Boston Marathon Bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, and Wonder, which tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a young boy with craniofacial disfigurement trying to navigate school, friends and life.

“We search for stories and we have ability to make stories that entertain but also mean something,” Lieberman said while accepting the award. “We have the responsibility to do so.”

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Wonder Director Stephen Chbosky Calls for More Inclusive Casting of People with Disabilities

Stephen Chbosky and Jacob Tremblay announcing an award for David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman

Stephen Chbosky and Jacob Tremblay announcing an award for David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman

Beverly Hills, Nov. 18 – When Stephen Chbosky was asked to present an award at the 2017 Media Access Awards to producers Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman on Friday, he thought it was something through the Producers Guild of America.

In an interview with RespectAbility following the awards, he expressed his surprise at the existence of the Media Access Awards – and the plethora of talent with disabilities available.

“I cannot tell you how inspired I was to be in this room today with these amazing people, these incredible talents,” he said.

He and Wonder star Jacob Tremblay presented Lieberman and Hoberman with the 2017 Producers Guild of America George Sunga Award at the Media Access Awards, which honor individuals who are showcasing the disability narrative.

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