Netflix’s 'Tales of the City,' ABC’s 'General Hospital' Among Ruderman Family Foundation Honorees (Exclusive)

Jay Ruderman - H 2019

Courtesy of Moses Pini Siluk

"By giving credit where credit is due in Hollywood, we hope to inspire a broader, longer-term, industry-wide sea change when it comes to authentically casting actors of all abilities," said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation.

Five television shows are being celebrated by the Ruderman Family Foundation for their accurate depictions of people with disabilities. 

The following shows will receive the foundation's seal of authentic representation: Netflix’s Tales of the City and Raising Dion, ABC’s General Hospital, BBC/HBO’s Years and Years and Audience’s Loudermilk.

"Given our belief that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing society, the Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation is a simple, yet crucial and indispensable affirmation of those in the entertainment industry who put these values into action," said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. "By giving credit where credit is due in Hollywood, we hope to inspire a broader, longer-term, industry-wide sea change when it comes to authentically casting actors of all abilities."

"Being acknowledged for hiring Mat Fraser feels redundant and unnecessary, as we've already benefited greatly from his brilliant performances,” said Peter Farrelly, co-creator and co-executive producer of Loudermilk. "That said, we're extremely happy and proud to be associated with the Ruderman Family Foundation's effort to promote full inclusiveness in popular culture. The Rudermans are opening minds and making the world a better place and we thank them for that."

Fraser, who stars on the comedy series from Audience, has phocomelia, a condition that involves malformations of the arms and legs. The actor, who plays Roger on the series, coined the phrase "spacking up" which laments how able-bodied actors all too often play roles that involve disabilities.

study by the foundation found that 95 percent of television characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors, noting streaming platforms had a better percentage but still lower overall count of characters with disabilities.

"I’m absolutely proud to know that Tales of the City has been awarded this honor. Showrunner Lauren Morelli created a wholesome, collaborative experience where as a deaf, queer, POC (person of color) actor, my feedback was welcomed and implemented to make the performance truly authentic and more representative of the Deaf," said Dickie Hearts, who was cast as Mateo. "Authentic representation of people with disabilities allows us as actors with disabilities to add depth and nuance to the characters we’re portraying by drawing on our own lived experiences. I’m grateful to Lauren and everyone on Tales for the opportunity and look forward to more shows actively clearing a seat at the table for us, and giving us more opportunities to tell our stories and to authentically represent our communities. Thank you so much!"

The Netflix drama miniseries premiered in June and cast deaf actor and filmmaker Hearts as Mateo, a deaf butler. Hearts also played a man with a hearing impairment on Netflix’s Grace and Frankie.

"I am so thrilled and honored for Raising Dion to be awarded the Foundation's Seal of Authentic Representation. All people need to see themselves represented in media and we all benefit when the powerful medium of film and television reflects the real world back to us," said Carol Barbee, creator and an executive producer of the show. "For too long, entertainment has promoted an unhealthy singular idea of who we should be, of what’s acceptable and desirable. We all live in the world. We see the diversity all around us. Our hope is that shows like Raising Dion, with realistic portrayals of characters like Esperanza played by Sammi Haney, will normalize differences and lead to opportunities and acceptance for all people."

The science fiction series, based on the comic book and short film by the same name, features a character named Esperanza who uses a wheelchair. Nine-year-old Haney was born with osteogenesis imperfecta type III or "brittle bone disease."

"It's such an honor to see Years and Years be awarded The Ruderman Family Foundation's Seal of Authentic Representation. Being cast as Rosie Lyons was an absolute dream and a huge step in the industry toward better portrayal of characters with disabilities," Ruth Madeley of Years and Years said. "Rosie was not initially written as a disabled character, which only made her development even more interesting and real. To have the opportunity to work with Russell T. Davies and Red Production Company in making Rosie as authentic as possible is an experience I will cherish forever."

The British drama series cast Madeley, who has spina bifida, as Rosie Lyons, a single mother who has spina bifida. The condition is apparent from birth, and occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly. The actress has said she would like to be remembered for "helping to make the entertainment industry more inclusive for people with disabilities."

"Our goal has always been to provide stories that are authentic and relatable for our viewers. Having the opportunity to welcome Maysoon Zayid onto the show was exciting for us. She is an incredible talent and was a perfect fit to guest-star as Zahra Amir. It takes all kinds of people to tell a story; especially those that are rich and entertaining enough to resonate with our audience," said Frank Valentini, executive producer of General Hospital.

The ABC soap opera cast Zayid, an actress and disability advocate with cerebral palsy who is also one of America’s first Muslim women comedians, as Zahra Amir. Zayid said landing this role fulfilled what she described as a "lifelong dream," having noted she has found it difficult to land roles due to her disability. 

Earlier this year, the foundation awarded the seal of authentic representation to Hulu's Ramy, contemporary romantic drama This Close, feature films Give Me Liberty and The Peanut Butter Falcon and Netflix's Stranger Things.