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Hollywood Inclusion

This Is Us Highlights Importance of Men Talking about their Mental Illnesses

Photos of Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) on This Is Us

Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Toby (Chris Sullivan) on This Is Us

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 15 – The third season of This Is Us continues to tear at viewers’ heartstrings while carefully using its platform to shed light on an important issue that often goes unspoken in today’s society: mental health. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one-in-five Americans lives with some form of mental illness. Not only is the show written in a way that people can connect with but it also is subliminally inviting the everyday viewer to join the conversation about the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Spoilers ahead.

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9-1-1 Works to Normalize Children with Disabilities and Set High Expectations

Ryan Guzman and Gavin McHugh eat cereal on the show 9-1-1 on Fox

Ryan Guzman and Gavin McHugh eating cereal in the opening scene of “Stuck”

Los Angeles, California, Oct. 15 – When 20th Century Fox Television’s 9-1-1 introduced a recurring character with a disability, it provided an opportunity to both normalize the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society and highlight the importance of setting high expectations for children with disabilities.

Spoilers ahead.

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Earthquake Scenario on 9-1-1 Includes Storyline with Student with Cerebral Palsy

Gavin McHugh on the set of 9-1-1 in front of a firetruck

Gavin McHugh on the set of 9-1-1

A show focused on emergency responders and the behind-the-scenes intricacies of their rescues is bound to tackle some issues relating to disabilities. But 20th Century Fox Television’s 9-1-1 has taken disability inclusion a step further by including a recurring character with a disability and providing an opportunity for further discussion of issues relating to disability access and belonging.

The two-night Season 2 opener introduced two new lead characters – Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), a nurse escaping an abusive relationship who becomes a 9-1-1 operator, and Eddie Diaz (Ryan Anthony Guzman), a LAPD firefighter and single dad to seven-year-old son Christopher (Gavin McHugh), who has cerebral palsy.

“Ryan’s character has his own issues: He’s a single father with a son with special needs, with cerebral palsy,” said executive producer Tim Minear. “And he’s an Army veteran who’s left the Army in order to raise his kid.”

The fast-paced opener shows both the lead-up to and the aftermath of a 7.1 earthquake and aftershocks. In the opening scene of the second episode, Eddie and Christopher have a conversation about dogs as Eddie walks his son to school, which appears to be a mainstreamed school. “Do you think dogs know they’re dogs?” Christopher asks. ”Do dogs just think we are bigger, less hairier, smarter dogs that walk funny?” The audience then sees Christopher walking with crutches into his school.

When Eddie works to save people trapped in a high-rise, fellow Firefighter Evan “Buck” Buckley (Oliver Stark) attempts to reassure Eddie that Christopher is in the safest place he could be right now – a school, which had been reinforced after a recent earthquake. However, another scene in the episode lets viewers know that some students may still be trapped in the school. The episode ends without viewers learning of Christopher’s fate. [click to continue…]

New A&E Documentary Special by Marlee Matlin Aims to Change Misperceptions about Deaf Families

Follows Season 4 of Born This Way, unscripted reality show breaking down disability stigmas, which was nominated for four Creative Arts Emmy Awards last weekend

Los Angeles, California, Sept. 10 – On the heels of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards this weekend, a new documentary special will air on A&E on Wednesday. Executive produced by Academy Award-winner Marlee Matlin, Deaf Out Loud follows three predominantly deaf families as they raise their children in a hearing world. With many differing opinions about how deaf children should be raised swirling in the social consciousness, these families work to forge their own paths forward and combat the daily social stigmas many deaf people face.

Misconceptions exist about deaf individuals – from schooling, to employment and raising a family. Shows like Deaf Out Loud aim to change these misperceptions and has the potential to bring awareness and better understanding about people who are deaf. This show delves into the various ways Deaf culture is expressed and embraced in the United States. The three families will show viewers the diversity of Deaf culture today, and how it differs from hearing cultures.

“People of all backgrounds need to see positive representations of themselves, both as people with satisfying personal lives and as people who can perform successfully in the workplace,” Executive Producer Jonathan Murray said. “Those positive images will change for the better the way the greater society sees people who are deaf and those with disabilities, opening up more opportunities for them.” [click to continue…]

New Documentary Deaf Out Loud to Showcase Three Deaf Families

Interview Opportunity Available with Deaf Out Loud Executive Producer Jonathan Murray

Washington, D.C., July 29 – Following on the heels of the critically acclaimed award-winning original docuseries Born This Way, A&E Network will be debuting Deaf Out Loud in September. A documentary special, Deaf Out Loud follows the lives of three predominantly deaf families who utilize different communication modalities in everyday life.

headshot of Jonathan Murray wearing a gray striped shirt and facing the camera color photo

Jonathan Murray

Executive Producer Jonathan Murray will be showing a sneak preview of the trailer at a summit on Capitol Hill on Monday, July 30 while moderating the panel “Fighting Implicit Bias Through TV and Film.” Panelists include Jeanette Betancourt, SVP, U.S. Social Impact of Sesame Workshop; Crystal R. Emery, who directed Black Women in Medicine; and Rachel Dretzin and Andrew Solomon, director and author of Far From The Tree. The summit, “From Washington to Hollywood and Beyond: The Future of Americans with Disabilities,” is being presented by RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with all disabilities. Murray serves on RespectAbility’s Board of Directors. Interview opportunities with Murray, who created MTV’s The Real World, and produces A&E’s Born This Way, are available during the conference.

Misconceptions exist about deaf individuals – from schooling, to employment and raising a family. Shows like Deaf Out Loud aim to change these misperceptions and has the potential to bring awareness and better understanding about people who are deaf. This show delves into the various ways Deaf culture is expressed and embraced in the United States. The three families will show viewers the diversity of Deaf culture today, and how it differs from hearing cultures.

“People with disabilities need to see positive representations of themselves, both as people with satisfying personal lives and as people who can perform successfully in the workplace,” Murray said. “Those positive images will change for the better the way the greater society sees people with disabilities, opening up more opportunities for them.”

headshot of Marlee Matlin wearing a pink top

Marlee Matlin

As with representation of people with all types of disabilities, Deaf individuals are underrepresented in television and film. There are some good examples, however. Among them are Quantico, featuring Marlee Matlin, who is also an executive producer on Deaf Out Loud; The Silent Child, showcasing the talents of six-year-old Maisie Sly, who uses British sign language; Baby Driver, with a moving performance by the African-American deaf actor C.J. Jones; and Wonderstruck in which deaf newcomer Millicent Simmonds astonished critics and audiences with a magnificent, visually expressive performance.

Deaf film producer Delbert Whetter explained the importance of using authentic deaf actors in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter. “Sign language has tremendous cinematic properties, with unique and complex forms of inflection, intonation and pitch that can take years to master but can amplify and deepen performances in ways accessible to all audiences,” he wrote. Whetter also is available for in-person interviews at the summit.

Headshot of Kaity in professional dress in front of the Respectability banner

Kaity Hagen

RespectAbility’s conference also features Deaf advocate Kaity Hagen, who will be speaking as part of the “Importance of Intersectionality: Enabling People of Color and Immigrants with Disabilities to Succeed” panel. She will be speaking alongside Stepahnie Farfan, an alumna of RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program and Clarence Page, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for The Chicago Tribune. Donna Walton, founder and president of The Divas With Disabilities Project, will moderate this panel.

The event will be taking place in the Rayburn House Office Building, Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. Breakfast starts at 8:00 a.m. with formal remarks beginning at 9:00 a.m. The full conference agenda (all open to the press) is available on RespectAbility’s website here: https://www.respectability.org/Summit2018/. Space is extremely limited and RSVPs are required.

Deaf Out Loud is produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, with Murray, Gil Goldschein, Laura Korkoian, Matlin and Jack Jason as the executive producers. Executive producers for A&E Network are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Shelly Tatro and Jeana Dill.

Born This Way’s Emmy Nominations Prove Disability is a Winning Theme

Born This Way cast and producers celebrating their Emmy win on stage at the Emmy Awards. Executive Producer Jonathan Murray holds the Emmy Award.

Born This Way cast and producers celebrating their Emmy win in 2016.

Los Angeles, July 16 – A&E Network’s critically acclaimed award-winning original docuseries Born This Way keeps adding up honors, with four more Emmy nominations this year, bringing the total to 13 nominations and three wins including the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series in 2016, and for Casting for a Reality Program and Cinematography for a Reality Program in 2017.

Produced by Bunim/Murray Productions, Born This Way, an unscripted reality show, follows a group of seven young adults with Down syndrome along with their family and friends in Southern California. Because its focus is on showing their everyday lives, including employment, efforts for independent housing, loves and more, Born this Way breaks down stigmas surrounding disability.

This year, Born This Way is nominated once again for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program, Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program and Outstanding Cinematography for a Reality Program, as well as Outstanding Picture Editing for an Unstructured Reality Program. [click to continue…]

Producers Guild Recognizes Importance of Disability Inclusion

Los Angeles, California – At a panel on inclusion at the Producers Guild of America (PGA)’s Produced By Conference last week, disability was excluded from the conversation until a question was asked by RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, about disability inclusion.

Rachel Shane, Chief Creative Officer, MWM Studios, talked about bringing writers with disabilities into the writers’ room and that it had not been a focus before.

Nancy Solomon, Attorney at Law, Solomon Law, APC, said there must be more discussions about mental health issues and not be ashamed to bring them into the discussion.

When Nicole Brown, the SVP at TriStar Pictures with Sony, spoke, she brought a real-life case study to the room. When working on Baby Driver, the director said it was important that a deaf actor must play the deaf character to be authentic and “bring more depth to the film.” They put their trust in the director although they were not sure what to expect.

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Variety, Easterseals Challenge Entertainment Industry to Include People with Disabilities in Writers’ Room and More

Los Angeles, California – “When we talk about diversity, we need to include disability.”

This was the message last week at the beginning of Variety’s A Night in the Writers Room, an event aimed at educating and providing writers resources and information from seasoned writers and showrunners.

Before two panels featuring writers of drama and comedy television shows, Easterseals and Variety announced a new partnership and challenge to the entertainment community to be more inclusive of people with disabilities both in front of and behind the camera.

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

Nic Novicki receiving award at the Media Access Awards

Easterseals and Variety challenged all writers to include at least one writer with a disability in the writers’ room and to write at least one character with a disability by the end of the 2018-2019 screenwriting season, even if their disability is not the defining factor of their disability. Learn more at http://WritersChallenge.org.

“True inclusion will not happen until disability has a prominent place at the table,” said Nic Novicki, founder of the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. [click to continue…]

More Than One-Third of LGBTQ Adults Identify as Having a Disability

Throughout LGBTQ Pride Month (June), the LGBTQ community will be reflecting on the past and looking forward to the future. Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women also identify as having a disability. The disability community intersects with every other minority group, and the LGBTQ community is no exception. The LGBTQ rights movement has made tremendous progress over the past five years, but there is a lot of work left to be done to ensure that LGBTQ people are truly equal.

Both people who identify as LGBTQ and people who have invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities like dyslexia, mental health or ADHD have to decide whether or not to “come out of the closet.” This is not an easy decision for most people because of the uncertainty of whether or not acceptance will follow. LGBTQ youth who come out sometimes are rejected by their families and friends. Some are even kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets. According to a University of Chicago report, LGBTQ young adults had a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender.

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Josh Feldman, Deaf Gay Trailblazer in Hollywood, Discusses the Importance of Representation

Josh Feldman in This CloseJosh Feldman did not see himself on TV growing up. “As a young kid, I wondered who my deaf gay role models were, so that I could have an idea of what deaf gay adults could do, or what kind of people they were in society,” he told RespectAbility.

That Feldman did not see representation growing up does not mean that LGBTQ people with disabilities do not exist. Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women have a disability. Yet the number of LGBTQ characters with disabilities on TV today is still in the single digits.

Feldman decided to change that for future generations. He wrote and starred in This Close, a comedy-drama that premiered on Sundance Now in February. This Close was the first TV show created by and also starring people who are deaf.

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