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We need more disabled women on TV

How many disabled female characters in movies or on TV can you count? Probably not a lot, and especially not ones that are strong and modern woman. Well we need more in the public eye, so we’ve spoken to actress Shannon Devido about her new film, Good Beer, with, you guessed it, a strong and disabled female lead.

“What do you want to do when you grow up,” I was asked as a child? After my phase of wanting to be an artist – I realised at a very young age only being able to draw stick figures may not get me too far – I knew I wanted to be a performer. I will admit to anyone that I’m an awkward individual. Small talk freaks me out. However, when I step on stage or in front of a camera, everything makes sense. I’m home. There is no where else I want to be.

So, after graduating college I made the decision. I was going to pursue my acting career. My parents, while devastated I wasn’t going to be an accountant (even though my math skills are worse than my stick figure art), were, and still are, extremely supportive.

Regardless of who you are, becoming an actor is an uphill battle. Being a woman adds a layer of difficulty, and then throw on being a wheelchair user, and your quest just became almost as insurmountable as finding the Holy Grail. But, it is the only job I can imagine doing for the rest of my life. So, coconuts in hand, I set out on my odyssey.

I’ve been very honored to play roles on Law and Order: SVU, ABC Primetime: What Would You Do, and Sesame Street. I get to perform around the country with my improvisation teams, and have done some really wonderful theater.

Still, as anyone who watches TV or movies will have noticed, the entertainment industry isn’t completely inclusive at the
moment. While it is getting better on network TV, out of the 3 shows airing this autumn featuring a main character with a disability, only 1 actor is actually disabled, and none are women. In a country where 20% of the people have disabilities, less than 1% of the characters on TV represent that minority.

Yet, there are people much smarter and eloquent than myself that can talk to those numbers. I, on the other hand, have decided to approach it through writing, comedy, and an extreme amount of persistence and, for lack of a better word, balls. I’ve written a few scripts for some of my favorite shows featuring a quirky female wheelchair user and, most excitingly, have produced a short film based on a play I did Off Broadway in June just gone called Good Beer.

It was written by 1 of my favorite playwrights (and nicest person) Sam Hunter, and also stars David Harrell, an amazing actor. It’s about a woman on a first date with a guy, with whom she immediately develops a great connection online. She is a wheelchair user and completely open about it, while he is hiding a secret. At it’s core, it transcends disability and is just a universally relatable love story for the 21st century. When The New York Times loves it, you know you’ve created something special.

I’m very proud to be part of this piece and I want the world to see it. But there is one thing standing in our way… money. So, we’ve started a fundraising campaign. The director, editor and crew we’ve chosen are incredibly talented, but we need to pay them. We need everyone’s help.

This film has the ability to change the way the movers and shakers of Hollywood see actors with disabilities. David and I work our butts off, and we’re ready for people to see our work, where we’re not playing characters that are sick or mentally challenged.

We don’t expect this film to change the industry overnight, but it’d be a really big step in the right direction. Plus, who knows, maybe it could lead to getting me and my script about a hard working, candy loving, wheelchair using park ranger into the hands of the Parks and Rec tea Dream big and find your Holy Grail!

You can donate to get the film Good Beer produced on the Kickstart website!

By Shannon Devido

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One Comment

  1. The Kickstarter vid’s hilarious! I have no money but hope it gets to a screen and fast!

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