Marvel Studios has received another honor, thanks to two of its superheroes.
Chloe Zhao’s Eternals and Disney+ series Hawk Eye have each earned the Seal of Authentic Representation from the Ruderman Family Foundation, which advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in society. The Seal recognizes movies and television shows that feature actors with disabilities in roles with at least five lines of dialogue.
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both Eternals‘ Makkari (Lauren Ridloff) and Hawk Eye‘s Echo (Alaqua Cox) are superpowered individuals who also have disabilities.
“Makkari is full of heart and wisdom. She is strong, charismatic, mysterious and mischievous. We are very lucky to have found Lauren Ridloff, who is our real-life Makkari!” Zhao said in a statement. “She has brought this character to life with love and conviction and has taught us so much in the process.”
Ridloff and Cox are both deaf, and the latter also is an amputee who uses a prosthetic leg.
“Not only what [Ridloff] overly qualified to join an already high-level cast, she elevated the ensemble with her unique spirit, talents and charisma. It’s been a privilege getting to know her through the process and seeing what a real-life hero she has become to so many,” said Sarah Finn, who drives casting for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of Cox, she added: “Alaqua Cox’s character, Maya Lopez/Echo, is based off an existing Marvel character who is deaf and Native American. In casting the role, we wanted to celebrate and honor both Deaf and Native American cultures. We couldn’t be more delighted by Alaqua Cox’s performance. She is phenomenal and part of a new culture in film and television, where authentic representation not only matters but is paramount to the kind of stories we want to tell and how we shape them.”
The Ruderman Foundation’s latest round – its ninth – of Seal recipients is rounded out with a trio of TV shows:
HBO Max’s And Just Like That: While long time Sex and the City franchise player David Eigenberg, who plays fan favorite Steve Brady, brought his real-life experience of hearing loss to the character’s evolution, the sequel series also brought in Tony winner Ali Stroker, who uses a wheelchair, in for an episode as Chloe. “We’ve been fans of Ali’s work since we met her, and it’s exciting watching her talent become ever more widely recognized, so much so that Michael Patrick King wrote this role specifically for her,” casting director Bernie Telsey said in a statement. Added co-casting director Tiffany Little Canfield, “Ali Sroker is one of our favorite actors, an artist who has paved the way for many differently abled artists to come after her. She’s a trailblazer, and it has been an honor cast her in our projects. I look forward to casting her for years to come!”
NBC’s Ordinary Joe: John Gluck, who has collagen VI muscular dystrophy, played Christopher, Lucas and Zeke – three variations on the same character, who all have muscular dystrophy, on the sliding doors-style “what if” drama. “My son Zeke lives with spinal muscular atrophy, so it was a very personal decision to make our main character, Joe Kimbreau, needs a special parent and to tell stories from the unique perspective of my own family experience,” co-creator and showrunner Garret Lerner said in a statement. “Honestly, the most gratifying part of making Ordinary Joe was finding John Gluck, giving him this opportunity and watching him shine. And the greatest reward was seeing how he’s been embraced by the disabled community and how important his casting has been to so many people. When my own son thanked me for casting the role with proper representation, well… that was a career and life highlight.”
Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building: James Caverly, who is deaf, has been called a scene-stealer for his role as tenant Theo, who takes center stage in the seventh episode of the acclaimed mystery comedy’s first season. “When we first wrote the character of Theo Dimas and the subsequent episode ‘The Boy From 6B,’ we immediately committed ourselves to casting a deaf actor as Theo,” co-creator and showrunner John Hoffman said in a statement. “In finding James Caverly, we not only benefited from his remarkable talents, but also from the sharing of his vast knowledge, personal experience and his advocacy on how best to authentically represent a deaf character in the most truthful and connective way for our audience. ”
“We are gratified to witness this latest group of studio productions implement the crucial values of inclusion and authentic representation in their casting decisions,” Ruderman Foundation president Jay Ruderman said in a statement. “These practices are increasingly becoming the norm in Hollywood, with the authentic casting of Lauren Ridloff in Eternals and Alaqua Cox in Hawk Eye marking a particularly high-profile and momentous milestone for Marvel and the entire entertainment industry. Each time a casting director or other executive makes such a decision, it facilitates the industry’s broader journey towards fulfilling its full potential as a beacon of all forms of diversity and social justice.”
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