NBCUniversal to audition disabled actors for all new studio projects

Ben Arnold
·2 min read
New York, USA - June 10, 2012: View at the entrance to NBC Studios and surrounding buildings. The NBC Studios are located in the historic GE Building on 49th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, New York.
NBC Studios in New York (Credit: Getty)

NBCUniversal has said that it will commit to auditioning disabled actors for all of its new studio projects going forward.

It will include the Universal movie studio, the NBC studio and Peacock, its newly-minted online streaming platform.

The announcement has come following an ongoing request from the US disability organisation the Ruderman Family Foundation, which agreed a similar arrangement with the US broadcaster CBS in 2019.

In a statement, Ruderman Foundation president Jay Ruderman said: “The Ruderman Family Foundation is thrilled to see NBCUniversal commit to our guidelines and dedicate themselves further to casting people with disabilities in their productions.

“By having such an influential entity like NBCUniversal take this bold stand, we hope to continue to see others join us in striving to create more opportunities for people with disabilities in entertainment.”

The foundation is frequently vocal on the subject of non-disabled actors playing disabled characters on screen.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot (Credit: Amazon)
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot (Credit: Amazon)

It recently slammed the casting of Joaquin Phoenix in Gus Van Sant's comedy-drama Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot, in which the actor played the paraplegic cartoonist John Callahan.

“It was a mistake for director Gus Van Sant to cast Joaquin Phoenix in his upcoming biopic about disabled cartoonist John Callahan,” Jay Ruderman said in an official statement.

“The time has come for the entertainment industry to audition and cast actors with disabilities to play leading roles portraying disability.”

The foundation has also taken on the makers of movies like Blind, starring Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, and Me Before You, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin.

Watch: Me Before You trailer

The news comes in the wake of polls showing that disabled actors and crew make up a fraction of the workforce in the entertainment business.

A report in the UK last year, backed by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky, showed that disabled people make up just 7.8% of those seen on screen, and 5.2% of those working off-screen.

That compares to 17% of the British people of working age being disabled.