Producers of new series, 'The Stand' criticized for hiring hearing actor to play Deaf character
Some members of the Deaf community are questioning a casting decision in a new Stephen King television series.
According to the BBC, when hearing actor, Henry Zaga was chosen to portray a Deaf character, Nick Andros in Stephen King's adapted-for-television series 'The Stand,' a resulting wave of frustration swept across the nation's Deaf community, motivating some to speak out against the decision.
For example, more than 70 people signed a letter saying it was "not acceptable" that the CBS All Access series cast Zaga in a role that was tailor-made for a Deaf actor.
"We will not endorse, watch or support your mini-series... We will share our displeasure," the letter said.
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 & HBIC of #DeafTalent® (@DeafShowRunner) December 17, 2020
According to Deadline, CBS signed a June 2020 commitment to audition actors with disabilities, claiming it had become the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation's pledge for such a cause.
But the protest letter noted that"not one deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role," and "the decision was made without respect to and for deaf professionals."
The letter went on to say, "There was no acknowledgement given to the psyche of a deaf character, being deaf is more than just not hearing."
The letter's signatories include Antoinette Abbamonte, whose work include Curb Your Enthusiasm; and Dickie Hearts, who has appeared in Tales of the City and Grace and Frankie.
It adds, "We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the mini-series on CBS All Access with our deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide."
The Hollywood Reporter says the network has acknowledged the complaint by scheduling a meeting with people from the deaf artists' community to discuss the issue.
The first episode of The Stand, which also stars Whoopi Goldberg and Amber Heard, was released on Thursday. Last August, deaf actor Nyle DiMarco tweeted in protest at the casting.
Nick Andros is DEAF in #TheStand and is being played by a hearing actor @henryzaga.— Nyle DiMarco (@NyleDiMarco) August 2, 2019
Hollywood takes pride in diversity to ensure representation & authenticity.., BUT CONTINUES TO EXCLUDE people with disabilities.@StephenKing @CBSNews https://t.co/r1vS5GOOGs
The BBC notes that, in stark contrast with Zaga's acceptance of the role, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil, who was born partially deaf but regained her hearing after surgery, said she had turned down an opportunity to play a deaf woman because she felt the role should go to a deaf actress.
"I said it wouldn't be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role," she told the Press Association.
"I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space," she added. "I don't want to be part of erasure."