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Amid ongoing Hollywood diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, another group is arguing a new series does not reflect these values.
On Thursday, more than 70 signatories issued a statement saying that the casting of a hearing actor to play a Deaf character on the new CBS All Access limited series The Stand is “not acceptable.” (Hearing actor Henry Zaga is playing Deaf character Nick Andros in the series.) Signatories include members of the Deaf community including actor Antoinette Abbamonte (The New Normal, Curb Your Entusiasm), director Jules Dameron (Reverse Polarity), actor James Caverly (Chicago Med, A Bennett Song Holiday), actor Dickie Hearts (Tales of the City, Grace & Frankie) and actor Andrew Morrill (who has appeared in theatrical productions Waiting for Godot and Alice in Wonderland), among others.
The letter adds, “We will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access. We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the miniseries on CBS All Access with our Deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of Deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide.”
According to the letter, “not one Deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role” — a Deaf 22-year-old character in the Stephen King novel upon which the limited series is adapted — and “the decision was made without respect to and for Deaf professionals, union and non-union alike.” Talent manager Robert Rossi, who reps Hearts and other Deaf actors, supports this assertion and tells THR in a separate statement, “I was not notified or contacted or aware of the casting of this project. Usually SAG diversity office reaches out directly to me and the diversity casting department at networks. Nobody reached out. It was already a done deal and here is the problem. Multiple deaf/native signers could have authentically portrayed this role.”
Signatories and supporters are using the hashtag #StandAgainsttheStand to support the letter. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to CBS All Access for comment and has learned CBS is meeting with the Deaf artists’ community that produced the statement Thursday.
Deaf actor and advocate Nyle DiMarco previously spoke out against the series’ casting choice in August 2019, tweeting, “Hollywood takes pride in diversity to ensure representation & authenticity…, BUT CONTINUES TO EXCLUDE people with disabilities.” Oprah Magazine reported that month that DiMarco reached out to co-creator Josh Boone about the casting and was “ignored.”
The new protest comes amid an ongoing campaign against the ABC series Big Sky, which Indigenous groups have boycotted over the series’ lack of recognition of the crisis of missing Native Americans in Montana, where the show, centering on an investigation into a series of disappearances, is set.
Indeed, the letter starts by noting that it is part of an ongoing industry conversation around inclusion: “At the time of diversity and inclusion, this cycle of misrepresentation and unequal or non-existent employment opportunities for Deaf professionals in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera, must end. This has been happening for decades; enough is enough!” it says.
As a Black Deaf filmmaker/TV Creator, advocate of diversity & inclusion, acting instructor, & creator/owner of #Deaftalent®️ campaign, I believe in change. It shouldn’t be that difficult to cast the right person for the role.#StandAgainstTheStand #TheStand #RepresentationMatter pic.twitter.com/WBpomfxpmz
— Jade Bryan – TV Writer & #DeafTalent® Consultant (@DeafShowRunner) December 17, 2020
Dec. 17, 1 p.m. Updated with Robert Rossi statement.
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