In the absence of being able to watch more films in cinemas, we've been catching up with some of our favourite performances on streaming services' which has sparked our curiosity into how the world of disability is portrayed on screen.
 
For a long time, media representation of disability has been a topic of debate with many believing it to be off-the-mark, leaving disabled actors feeling largely ignored. When you think of disability on the big screen, you might see Tom Hanks playing the loveable Forrest Gump, or Eddie Redmayne portraying the genius Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, leading many people from both the disabled and non-disabled community to wonder…
 
Is disability being misrepresented? Why are so many disabled characters being played by non-disabled people? Are disabilities in fact preventing some actors and actresses from getting their big break?

 

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With this in mind, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate actors and actresses of all ages, sizes and abilities and, in doing so, have picked out just some of our favourites to have hit the screens over recent years. Let’s go!

 

Peter Dinklage

Firstly, we have Peter Dinklage, best known for his role as Tyrion Lannister in the record-breaking, epic TV series Game of Thrones. Dinklage has a form of dwarfism called Achondroplasia that affects bone growth, which is not always recognised as a disability. However, in a society that predominantly caters for the average-height adult, someone with dwarfism may experience problems with accessibility as well as potential health issues.

Dinklage didn’t let that stop him from making his mark on the screen though. In fact, Dinklage has won multiple Emmy awards and a Golden Globe for his incredible portrayal of Tyrion Lannister, widely regarded as one of the most popular and memorable characters of the HBO hit TV series. Dinklage has also featured in global film phenomenon's such as Avengers: Inifinity War, X-Men: Days of Future PastElf and many more!

 

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Gaten Matarazzo

Next up we have Gaten Matarazzo, propelled into stardom as Dustin Henderson on the Netflix hit series Stranger Things back in 2016. Matarazzo has a genetic disorder called Cleidocranial Dysplasia which primarily affects the growth of bones and teeth. After landing the role, the show’s creators wanted to incorporate Matarazzo’s disability into his on-screen character which leads us to later see Dustin say to co-character, Lucas: ‘I’ve told you a million times! My teeth are coming in. It’s called cleidocranial dysplasia’.

Gaten's talent has helped his character become a real fan-favourite of the show, known for his cheeky comebacks and effortless charm, and we’re sure we'll be seeing a lot more from him soon. We love you, Gaten!

 

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Lauren Potter

Introducing Lauren Potter. You may know her best as Becky Johnson from the campy comedy-drama, Glee; a teen with Down Syndrome who tries out for the Cheerios cheerleading team.

SPOILER ALERT: She’s successful!

Potter has also made her mark on cinema screens, playing Young Andra in Mr Blue Sky as well as featuring in short films Headshot and Guest Room, the latter of which she also executively produced. How ‘bout them apples!

 

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RJ Mitte

Another actor who shares a disability with the character he portrays is RJ Mitte, playing the role of Walter White Jr. (Flynn) in the AMC TV series, Breaking Bad.

Mitte has Cerebral Palsy, a neurological condition affecting his motor skills, and faced a lot of bullying growing up. He has since however gone on to star alongside Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in the fourth highest-rated TV series of all time (IMDb) and is absolutely smashing it. That’s one way to show ‘em!

 

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George Robinson

Another outstanding performance we’re celebrating is by George Robinson who plays the tetraplegic troublemaker, Isaac, in season 2 of the hit Netflix show, Sex Education. The show is well-known for its inclusive cast and for shedding light on societal stigmas surrounding sex, disability, sexuality and gender.

At 17, George broke his neck after a rugby tackle went wrong, leaving him with limited mobility from the neck down. Despite Isaac originally being written as an amputee, the show decided to re-write the character as having a spinal cord injury just like George after his successful audition and, come the season finale, his character was the one everyone was talking about… *mischievous grin*

 

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Warwick Davis

British icon, Warwick Davis, has a form of dwarfism called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia Congenita (SED) and has played multiple characters over the years from a fictionalised version of himself in Life’s Too Short starring Ricky Gervais, right the way up to leprechauns, ewoks, goblins and wizards in some of our favourite Hollywood movies.

Davis was propelled onto the big screen after being cast as an ewok in the Star Wars franchise. He then went on to play three different characters in the global film franchise favourite Harry Potter, and starred in blockbusters WillowThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (to name a few). Davis also featured in reality TV show An Idiot Abroad and hosts the day-time gameshow Tenable on ITV. Now that’s quite an extensive resume, Mr Davis!

 

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Liz Carr

Liz Carr is best known for her role as forensic examiner Clarissa Mullery in the multi award winning BBC series Silent Witness. Fans have been in awe of her expertise as a series regular since 2013. 

Liz was diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a rare disease in newborns resulting in decreased flexibility of the joints, at the age of seven. Then after four years, she was told, the wheelchair would be with her for the rest of her life. But this clearly hasn’t held her back as her phenomenal achievements demonstrate.

This year Liz appeared in the highly acclaimed series Devs, also on the BBC, but you may not know, she is a Law graduate and civil rights campaigner for disabled people in the UK. She began her performing career in comedy group Nasty Girls and was twice a finalist in the Funny Women competition, has taken 6 shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, written a book and hosted the Ouch podcast for the BBC. We love this phenomenal woman.

 

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Chadwick Boseman

Last but most certainly not least we have the late, great Chadwick Boseman who sadly passed away with cancer in August of this year. Cancer is regarded by the law as a disability, which makes Chadwick a worthy addition to this iconic list of disabled actors and actresses.

He played many roles in his lifetime but is most recognised for his portrayal of the infamous Black Panther who featured in multiple Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. Chadwick’s 4-year-long battle with colon cancer meant that he was filming many of these movies amongst others whilst fighting the illness, unbeknown to his audiences, which made his untimely death a shock to fans who have since praised his perseverance and inspiring attitude.

His memorable performances have empowered many lives and left a tremendous cultural footprint on our society. He will forever be known as the Black Panther. Rest in peace, Chadwick.

 

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Who’s your favourite!? Can you think of anybody else worthy of celebrating for their acting success on screen? Share your thoughts with us on our social channels now!