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A Quiet Place Part II and Godzilla vs. Kong are among the latest recipients of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation, which recognizes movies and television shows that feature actors with disabilities.
“It is gratifying to see the two highest-grossing movies of 2021 making authentic representation a priority in their casting,” Jay Ruderman, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “It’s further testament that the entertainment industry is increasingly opening up to disability being an important facet of diversity. We applaud all five recipients of this current installment of the award for championing inclusion and encourage further authentic representation onscreen.”
The five recipients of the Ruderman foundation’s latest batch of Seals are:
- Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II – Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf, reprises her role as Regan Abbott from the original breakout horror hit, whose 2018 release came out one year before the Ruderman foundation began awarding its Seals. “I only decided to make a sequel because of my surety that [Simmonds] could hold the whole thing on her shoulders,” director John Krasinski said in a statement. “It was non-negotiable for me to cast a deaf actress in the role. Not only because it would obviously be a much more genuine and organic performance, but much more importantly, I needed a guide—someone to walk through this process with me every step of the way and make sure we were always being true to her experience.”
- Legendary and Warner Bros.’ Godzilla vs. Kong – Kaylee Hottle, who is deaf, played Jia, who uses sign language to communicate with the latter creature. “The process of searching for and casting a young deaf actress in the essential role of Jia was simultaneously challenging and enormously gratifying,” casting directors Sarah Finn and Krista Husar said in a joint statement. “We are grateful for the support of [producers] Mary Parent, Alex Garcia and [director] Adam Wingard in not only encouraging this authentic search, but ensuring that, once cast, the amazing Kaylee Hottle would be surrounded by support and respect throughout the process. We also want to acknowledge the actors, especially Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgård and all the members of the production and crew that learned ASL in order to work and communicate more closely with Kaylee on set.”
- Blue Ice Pictures’ Ginny & Georgia – Chris Kenopic, who is deaf, plays Clint Baker on the Netflix series. “Authentic representation was important to us and only enriched our show,” showrunner Debra J. Fisher and creator Sarah Lampert said in a joint statement. “Having Chris represent the deaf community and the actors learn ASL shows a grounded and realistic family and made all the Baker family scenes so much more special.”
- Brightlight Pictures’ Firefly Lane – Marina Sofia Hernandez, who has Down syndrome, plays Hope Brody on the Netflix series. “When I saw Marina’s audition, I was struck by how natural and effortless her reading was,” casting director Liz Dean said in a statement. “You could see that she was truly engaged in the scene, really listening and reacting. Her comedic timing is excellent. All of the work that she put into that audition translated beautifully to her work onscreen.”
- Digital Ignition Entertainment’s Triumph – Breaking Bad alum RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, played Mike in the feature film about a high school wrestler with CP. “As the industry has shifted its focus over the last few years to address more authenticity in the way roles are cast and portrayed, I was thrilled to take on this responsibility of telling this inspirational story very often found in the disabled community, yet not often told,” Mitte said in a statement. “The public’s acceptance and reception to Triumph has been super positive, and it motivates me to continue doing these types of films and keep sharing these points of view for those who don’t have the platform I have.”
To qualify for the Seal of Authentic Representation, a production must have a general release and feature an actor with a disability who has at least five lines of dialogue. Previous recipients include Grey’s Anatomy, General Hospital, Atypical, This Is Us and The Peanut Butter Falcon.
The Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation’s other work in Hollywood includes convincing studios to pledge to audition actors with disabilities (CBS, NBCUniversal and Paramount have signed on so far) and giving a three-year, $1 million grant to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to promote accessibility and equity initiatives.
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