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In NBC’s new drama La Brea, premiering Sept. 28, L.A.’s Miracle Mile becomes a mysterious primeval world when a massive sinkhole opens, pulling some people below the city’s La Brea Tar Pits and leaving others shaken aboveground. Beyond this literal divide, Zyra Gorecki, who plays Izzy Harris, illuminates the oft-under-discussed divide between actors with and without disabilities in broadcast television (her leg was amputated below the knee after a log crushed her foot at age 14). A Michigan native, Gorecki explored modeling before landing a spot on an episode of Chicago Fire in 2016. She spoke with THR about being one of the first limb-difference actors with a series regular role.
What role does Los Angeles play in the show?
L.A. and the La Brea Tar Pits [are] the playing field. We actually visited the Tar Pits so I could get a better feeling for what they’re like.
How did the action scenes in the show challenge you as a below-the-knee amputee? Conversely, what did your lived experience help bring to the role of Izzy?
The elements of action and adventure were really fun. I like to stay pretty fit, and so when I’d be asked what my limits were, I would just tell them [that] I would do what it took to get the job done. As an amputee, you bring a totally different mental state to a character with an amputation. For Izzy, I know what it’s like to experience the pain, the emotion, the life that comes with being an amputee. So I understand her reactions and choices in a way that a fully limbed person wouldn’t.
How does it feel to have the visibility of this role? Have you been in touch with any other actors who share similar experiences of accessibility and limb differences?
It feels freaking awesome! The inclusivity is so nice to see. I met David Harrell and Alex Barone through a limb-difference camp called Camp No Limits. They are both actors and have been an amazing wealth of information for me. I hope that moving forward, Hollywood will continue to use limb-difference actors for limb-difference characters.
Are there protections in place for disabilities behind the scenes that helped you while on set?
It was a learning curve for everyone. Nobody really knew what to do in the beginning. But we figured it out as we went, and everyone was so gracious and adaptable. [Show creator] David Appelbaum asked me loads of questions about life as an amputee so Izzy could be as accurate as possible.
What do you think viewers will be most surprised about by Izzy?
That’s she’s just a regular kid. She’s dealing with all of this crazy stuff, but she still needs her dad, she still has all these emotions, and sometimes it gets to be too much. I am so excited for people to see an amputee as just a regular person instead of a novelty item you see walking down the street.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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