As part of a podcast series, Disability Horizons Co-founder Martyn Sibley has been interviewing famous and influential disabled people from the top 100 Power list to bring you a collection of entertaining and informative podcasts. In this article, you can hear his discussion about disability in the media with disabled actress Storme Toolis.
I remember years ago being asked to moderate a talk at the BBC. It was for its staff and the talk was on disability and the media. The panel had disabled actors and production staff, and the audience was packed with scriptwriters, casting managers, and directors.
The objective of the talk – to help them to get more disabled people in the media industry, both on and off screen.
Disability in the media
It still stuns me when non-disabled people play disabled characters. However, around twenty years ago we didn’t even have any disabled characters – so we’re making progress.
One of the said reasons for this is talent, or rather lack of it. So should we be asking whether there are talented disabled actors out there? No, we have to first define ‘talent’ and decide if it’s something attainable from birth, with education, or a bit of both.
Naturally, this can’t be easily answered. But most people agree that talent needs to be there from birth. Everyone has talents, just different ones. It’s the hard work that breeds and leads to success.
Therefore if there’s no disabled talent in the media world, we really mean that there’s no nurturing of talent going on in the acting profession. So, we rightly ask why not? Are there no accessible drama schools? Are there no work opportunities available? Are we witnessing discrimination?
When you peel back the layers more, you start to find disabled actors with amazing talent, and success stories. Maybe things are already on the up?
I first came across Storme Toolis in the Inbetweeners. I vividly remember the scene by the swimming pool, where the lads realised they were stealing her family’s sunbed, making her cry.
However, I went on to find out she’d already had a far bigger break before that…
In this episode of The Martyn Sibley Show, we hear all about Stormes journey into acting. Her dreams, the risks she’s taken, the support she’s had and the setbacks. Plus, a bit about the future.
She’s gone on to work in social education, whilst still growing her acting career. Storme adapted Romeo and Juliet into a play, in turn encouraging all women to love themselves more. Body confidence is so important in today’s world of model-filled adverts.
She also starred in one of the naughty Maltesers adverts, that we all loved for its challenging of stereotypes – and it’s cheekiness.
We do conclude there’s more work to be done. Storme goes to show, at the same time, it’s all there for the taking. If you dare to dream and go for it.
By Martyn Sibley