JERICHO, N.Y., October 22, 2001 – On Sunday, December 2 at 10:00 PM (ET), AMC commemorates International Disabled Persons Day with the premiere of AGAINST ALL ODDS: AMC'S TRIBUTE TO HOLLYWOOD'S DISABLED. The original half-hour production will air as a special edition of AMC's Emmy Award-winning original weekly series, "Behind the Screen," hosted by John Burke. The show chronicles the efforts disabled actors are making to be recognized for their talents and to get roles that are not connected to their disabilities.
"At one time, the only roles for a person with a disability were a pathetic victim or an inspirational hero – and believe me, I've played both," says actor Robert David Hall, a double amputee who has regular roles on the series "The Practice" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
In AGAINST ALL ODDS, Hall and other disabled actors – including Nancy Baker Kennedy, Joy Mincey Powell, Anthony Natale and Rick Boggs – candidly discuss their aspirations to succeed as actors on their own terms, their frustration when they are passed over because of their disabilities, and their optimism that realistic, three-dimensional characters with disabilities will continue to appear in broadcast movies and television programs.
They also weigh in on the debate over whether able-bodied actors should portray disabled characters or if only disabled actors should be cast in these types of parts. AGAINST ALL ODDS notes that deaf actress Marlee Matlin's Oscar®-winning performance as a deaf student in CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986) seemed to mark a shift in casting. For example, Patty Duke won an Academy Award® for her portrayal of Helen Keller in THE MIRACLE WORKER (1962) and Audrey Hepburn earned an Oscar® nomination for playing a blind woman in WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967).
The trend to cast characters written to have a disability with actors who have that disability continued on television with the landmark series "Life Goes On." Chris Burke, an actor with Downs Syndrome, was cast as Corky Thacher, a student with Downs Syndrome who accepts the challenges of attending a mainstream school. Nonetheless, according to AGAINST ALL ODDS the question of fairness in casting lingers in Hollywood with more notable casting choices like Gary Sinise as a disabled Vietnam veteran in FORREST GUMP (1994). Sinise garnered an Academy Award® nomination for his role as Lieutenant Dan.
"If the role specifically calls for a person with a disability, all actors should be given the opportunity to audition for that," says talent agent Riley Day, who is featured in the special. "But when I say all actors, I mean all actors