Interviews by Emily Ladau
Photos by Michael Buckner/Variety

Making it as an actor is hard. For actors with disabilities, it’s even more so.
They face all the usual obstacles, and then find many doors in the industry unfairly closed to them. Those who are making it, though, are proving the value of representation.

They’re inspiring others, creating their own opportunities, and making content that’s changing the way Hollywood sees disability. Here are six actors who are thriving — and leading.


Credits: “American Horror Story”, “Turnover” (coming in January)
Reps: Agent - Gail Williamson, KMR Talent
Heroes: My family, Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Patti LuPone

“Becoming an actor was a dream of mine. In eighth grade, I was in a program that helped me learn the theater world. That definitely has helped me change minds in the entertainment industry. I’m a huge advocate. A lot of my advocacy is about changing perspectives and opening people’s eyes to the world of Down syndrome. Give us a chance, because there’s always room to grow.”


Credits: “Tell Me a Story”, “Sons of Anarchy”
Reps: Manager - Greg Wapnick, Luber Roklin Entertainment
Agents: Erin Grush, Mallory Tucker, Melissa Bormann, CESD Talent Agency
Heroes: “My father, Timothy Yaeger”

“Of the many shows I’ve been on and projects I’ve done, each has been an opportunity to change people’s hearts and minds. I’m a chameleon; I become the characters I play. So, I can be a good guy with a dark edge, or a dark guy who’s got a heart. And when writers, producers, and casting directors work with me, they realize, ‘Here’s a physically capable, hyper-athletic actor who can be an action hero — and he happens to be missing half his leg.’ And you can see all their perceptions about disability melt away.”


Credits: “Baby Driver”, “Castle Rock”
Reps: Manager - Becky Poliakoff and Scott Faucett at Hg5 Entertainment
Agent - Gail Williamson at KMR Talent
Heroes: Slapstick actors including Jerry Lewis and Flip Wilson; Jamie Foxx; and Robert Panara, teacher at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf

“The opportunities for people with disabilities in the media look good, but we can’t just sit back. We have to keep actively pushing. I want to develop a script with a role for me included in it. I’m not waiting for the industry to say, ‘Hey we’ve got a job opening for you over here.’ I just continue to work and build roles for myself on my own, to produce, direct, write. Develop your own projects, get involved. The disability community needs to just get on the move. We can’t just sit and wait.”


Credits: “This Close”, “Weeds”
Reps: Manager - Paul Young and Mike Griffin, Make Good Content Agents - Tim Phillips, Amanda Burnett and Houston Costa, UTA
Lawyer - Peter Sample
Heroes: Peter Dinklage, Marlee Matlin

“With television and film there are no limits. I’d love to see people of all abilities play all kinds of people. Villains, heroes, doctors, lawyers, what have you. When you’re creating a world on a show or in a film, we have the capability to ask the world, what if the world looked like this? We may not have had a president who was deaf yet, but when you’re creating a narrative, why not? I hope that people, whether they have a disability or not, ask themselves that same question after seeing our content: Why not?”


Credits: “This Close”
Reps: Manager - Paul Young and Mike Griffin, Make Good Content Agents - Tim Phillips, Amanda Burnett and Houston Costa, UTA
Lawyer - Peter Sample
Heroes: Larry Kramer

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to be a gay, deaf man on television or in films. I’m profoundly deaf and I don’t speak, so I always figured that there wasn’t a place in TV or movies for people like me, since usually characters have to speak, even deaf ones. I kind of had a ‘don’t bother’ mentality for a long time, until I started making my own content and realized that I had that mentality because I just hadn’t seen anyone like myself onscreen yet. So, I’m really just getting started.”


Credits: “Breaking Bad”, “Switched at Birth”
Reps: Managers - Vanguard Management Group
Heroes: Tom Hanks, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, “my grandparents”

“There are multiple reasons why you should give people with disabilities a chance in the entertainment industry — one being that it’s a massive community. There are millions of people with disabilities around the world that want to see themselves represented. We want accuracy, we want honesty. This is a market, people are hungry for this. My whole goal is to carve this path, to really have an impact in the disability community so everyone that is with me on this path to inclusion can get through it a little bit easier, and really cultivate what they’re doing. I’m a big believer in opportunity for all.”