Tuesday Truth - Diverse Abilities on Screen

This is RJ Mitte.  He was in one of my favorite television shows of all time: Breaking Bad.  Mitte played the son of the main character, a teenage boy named Walter White, Jr.  Jr. is an interesting young man, who also happens to have cerebral palsy.  At first, I thought this actor was incredible, because his portrayal of a disability I was familiar with was awesome.  I'm ashamed to say, I assumed he was a typically abled person.  He's not, Mitte has cerebral palsy, and started his career in modeling!

This guy is Sebastien Rene.  He played a severely disabled boy in the movies Starbuck and the American version, Delivery Man. While the disability this boy has in the movie is not labeled, I get the impression that his is a more severe cerebral palsy.  Rene's portrayal of disability was so impressive, actually, the producer, Steven Spielberg, wanted him to come back from the French Canadian production and reprise his role in the American film.  He was the only actor who appeared in both films.  Apparently, he did an excellent job portraying a boy with cerebral palsy.

Something about this reminds me of the days in Hollywood when it was popular for meaningful black roles to be portrayed by white actors in blackface.  For those of you that didn't get to that part in school yet, blackface was what it was called when white actors would take on the roles of black characters, often with overly obvious, poorly done makeup.  Often, the point, was to portray black roles as comical fools, and typically was very derogatory towards black actors and audiences.  Now, I won't say Rene's portrayal of a boy with cerebral palsy was meant to be derogatory, but it's hard for me personally to take seriously when the most he can communicate is inarticulate sounds and a good amount of drooling.

Mitte, on the other hand, portrayed a young man who was in a severely disturbing situation, one in which the father he loved and adored turned out to be a villain in a very serious reality.  He presents himself in many ways as a typical teenaged boy through most of the series, not ignoring his cerebral palsy, but not making a giant issue of it, either.  When the crap hits the fan, Mitte's acting get's real.  It's in this way, I think people miss out on, that actors, models, and every role that portrays an image to the public, should be filled by people who are in the situation to portray.  Like saying black actors should portray black characters, because they could be good actors, too, and they could bring dimensions to a character no white actor ever could.  Well, so too should disabled roles be given to disabled actors.  They live the realities of their disabilities every day, and can easily bring that to any big or little screen that's ready for them. 

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