Authentic Casting of People with Disabilities: “Nothing About Us, Without Us”

We are very proud to provide an artistic home for Coby Bird, a young artist with autism.  He has been a vital member of our Wallis Family, participating in The Miracle Project classes and performances and in Broadway Dreams over the past few years.  It has been thrilling to see him grow in every way – in his confidence, his artistic talents, and certainly his stature.  Recently, Coby was cast in a major guest role in the ABC television series “The Good Doctor.”  I could not have been more proud as I watched the episode and thought of what this opportunity means for Coby.  Rather than being defined by his challenges, he was being celebrated for his talents.  Over the next few days, I came to realize that this was not just a big deal for Coby.  His appearance on a network show was a major step forward for artists with disabilities.

More often than not, producers hire a non-disabled actor to play the part of a character with a disability.  Thirty years after her Academy Award for “Children of a Lesser God,” Marlee Matlin remains a rare exception in Hollywood.  In fact, the lead actor on “The Good Doctor,” Freddie Highmore, is simply acting the part of someone with autism.  Thankfully, to play the role of a teen boy with autism, the show hired Coby.  I’m hoping his compelling and authentic performance will open the door for him and others with disabilities to share their own experiences on stage and screen.

You can learn more about Coby and his experiences on the show here