CBS Entertainment is now the first studio to sign a pledge committing to audition actors with disabilities for each new production ordered to series. This pledge will be in effect for both CBS Television Studios and CBS All Access, their streaming platform.
The Pledge reads,
We recognize that disability is central to diversity, that the disability community comprises the largest minority in our nation, and that people with disabilities face seclusion from the entertainment industry.
We understand that increasing auditions, no matter the size of the role, is a critical step toward achieving inclusion in the industry.
This studio pledges to increase the number of actors and actresses with disabilities who auditioned for parts on television and in film.
The pledge was made in response to a call-to-action from the Ruderman Family Foundation, a disability advocacy group. The Foundation is encouraging studios to provide opportunities to disabled actors. According to the Ruderman Family Foundation, fifty-five million Americans, about twenty percent of the population, have disabilities, but less than two percent of television characters have disabilities. Furthermore, ninety-five percent of disabled characters are played by able-bodied actors. The Foundation hopes studios will be more mindful about representation and providing opportunities for the disabled in future programs.
Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i, the Executive Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion & Communications at CBS Entertainment, said, “We take pride in our commitment to cast and hire people with disabilities in our productions. We salute the Ruderman Family Foundation for advocating for this very achievable and important goal.”
Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation, responds to CBS’s pledge, “The Ruderman Family Foundation commends CBS for its leadership in becoming the first major media company to pledge to audition actors with disabilities for roles in their productions. It is our hope that other major media companies will follow their lead and foster opportunities that will lead to more authentic representation of people with disabilities in popular entertainment. Enhanced visibility of disability on screen will help reduce stigmas people with disabilities face in everyday life.”
In May, the Foundation presented a Seal of Authentic Representation to four shows featuring actors with disabilities. One of the shows honored was CBS’s NCIS: New Orleans for the character Patton Plame. Patton Plame is played by Daryl Mitchell who uses a wheelchair. CBS Entertainment’s Executive Vice President of Current Programs, Amy Reisenbach, said, “Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell is a charming and talented actor who brings to life the endearing and intelligent character of Patton Plame. We couldn’t imagine anyone else playing that role. We are thankful to have such an outspoken and motivational advocate for diversity and inclusion in entertainment be a vital part of the NCIS: New Orleans cast and CBS family.”