Two actresses with Down syndrome who appear in recurring roles on Fox’s “Glee” will be recognized Thursday for positively portraying individuals with developmental disabilities.
The Arc will present Lauren Potter and Robin Trocki with the group’s first-ever Inclusion and Image Award during the advocacy organization’s annual convention in Orlando, Fla.
Potter and Trocki were selected for the honor for “breaking down barriers, increasing awareness and challenging stereotypes” through their roles on the show, according to officials at The Arc.
“We wanted to commend the actresses and the show in particular for providing positive portrayals of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Laura Hart, a spokeswoman for The Arc. “They’ve been seen throughout the world both on the show and as people and actresses who had a dream and have fulfilled it.”
On the show, Potter, 20, plays Becky Jackson, a high school cheerleader who’s taken under the wing of the squad’s hard-nosed coach Sue Sylvester. Meanwhile, Trocki portrays Sylvester’s sister, Jean.
Both women tried out for the roles on “Glee” last year after being contacted by a talent agency run by the Down Syndrome Association of Los Angeles.
“Temple Grandin,” the HBO movie starring Claire Danes as the accomplished, autistic Grandin, is now available on DVD. The DVD includes commentary by Grandin. The movie is up for 17 Emmy Awards — read about it on Temple Grandin’s website.
Nearly every parent of an autistic child knows about Temple Grandin, the bestselling author and brilliant agricultural scientist who’s been a model for what children on that spectrum can become. Playing Grandin in this HBO biopic, Claire Danes captures Grandin’s braying monotone, stooped posture and default defensive stance to other people, but she also conveys her sense of humor and how she makes connections others can’t.
One politically correct thing to say about The Specials is that Sarah Silverman won’t be adopting them any time soon.
The cast of the 10-episode reality series features five young adults who have slightly varying degrees of learning disabilities; four of them Down’s syndrome, while the fifth, Lewis, has Williams Syndrome. The precedent for a show with an actor living with Down’s goes all the way back to Corky from Life Goes On to the more recent Retarded Policeman. But in The Specials, all the main players are disabled. It creates a far more inclusive dynamic. Each of the five principal cast members narrates scenes and intros and appearances by any other characters are limited.
A grocery store bagger with Down syndrome who is harassed by a customer is featured this week on ABC News’ “What Would You Do?” – which creates situations and sees if people intervene. (The bagger is played by an actor with Down syndrome.) Did anyone intervene? The show airs May 19.From the ABC News press room:
Will anyone sound the whistle when they see two commercial pilots drinking heavily at an airport bar? Who will stand up for a bagger at a grocery store with special needs being harassed by an ignorant customer? Will restaurant patrons intervene when a waiter complains about a lesbian couple with a child? Using hidden cameras, “What Would You Do?” sets up everyday scenarios and then captures people’s reactions. Whether people are compelled to act or mind their own business, John Quiñones reports on their split-second and often surprising decision-making process, on a special edition of “Primetime: What Would You Do?” airing WEDNESDAY, MAY 19 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on ABC.
This series shows what people actually do in the face of everyday dilemmas that test their character and values. Friday’s scenarios include:
* DRUNK PILOTS: Hundreds of millions of Americans take to the skies each year trusting their pilot to get them to their destination safely. What would you do if you witnessed two commercial airline pilots drinking heavily at a bar – just an hour away from getting into the cockpit?
· SPECIAL NEEDS – SPECIAL TREATMENT: People with intellectual disabilities have more professional opportunities than ever before, but they still face ignorance and even bigotry. Working in cooperation with the National Down Syndrome Society, an actor with Down syndrome poses as a bagger in a grocery store. But it doesn’t take long for an ignorant customer – also an actor – to start protesting. “What’s the matter with you? Are you retarded?” he complains. Will unwitting observers, waiting their turn at the cashier, take a stand against this abuse or will they ignore it?
When James Hobley makes his professional debut as a dancer – and given his talent it is a when, not an if, even though he’s only 10 – Hollywood will be beating down the door to turn his story into a feel-good biopic. It’s Billy Elliot with the added twist of autism. If only Daniel Day-Lewis was 40 years younger and could get his leg behind his head without CGI, he’d have another Oscar in the bag.
James first sprang to attention in Sky1’s talent show Got To Dance, where his startling flexibility and curiously intense presence turned him into a contender. The worry was how an autistic child would cope with the intense pressure of a TV talent show but, as Autism, Disco And Me (BBC3) revealed, James is pretty hard core when it comes to strutting his stuff in front of judges. You have to be if you want to win the bizarre riot of sequins and hip dislocations that is Disco Kid.
Normally, when you reach the end of a documentary and say to yourself, “I’m not sure which character that film was about,” it’s a bad thing, a sign of unclear writing and poor execution. But in the case of “Dad’s in Heaven With Nixon,” Tuesday night on Showtime, it’s a testament to how rich this bittersweet tale is.
Stimeyland blogger Jean Winegardner writes about a character with Asperger’s syndrome in this Washington Times post:
As a parent of a child with autism, I have watched with interest several television programs that have featured autistic characters. NBC’s new hour-long drama “Parenthood” is the newest of these programs, and one that holds a great deal of promise.
I am interested in autistic characters on television for the same reasons many other minority groups are interested in seeing people representative of them on television. It educates, it normalizes and it includes. I’ve been disappointed in the past by autistic portrayals on TV, notably Mary McDonnell’s doctor with Asperger’s on “Grey’s Anatomy,” because the characters just didn’t ring true and seemed to perpetuate stereotypes.
I’ve been seeing commercials for “Parenthood” for a long time, but just learned last week that one of the characters, Max, is a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. This is intriguing because I can’t think of any instances in which a child has played a person with autism. I was further compelled to watch after learning that “Parenthood” producer Jason Katims has a 13-year-old son with Asperger’s, which means the situations surrounding Max come from a place of experience.