Casting able-bodied actors in disabled roles is as repulsive as having white actors “black up” to play black roles, an Irish actor in the latest summer blockbuster has said.
Storme Toolis (18), whose father is investigative journalist Kevin Toolis from Achill in Co Mayo, was delighted to land a role in the feature film adaptation of the Channel 4 sitcom ‘The Inbetweeners’.
Ms Toolis, who lives in London, has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user.
She landed her big break when she turned up at an open audition to cast extras in the film about four loveable but idiotic 18-year-old boys.
But Ms Toolis was called back a couple of weeks later and offered a more substantial role.
Within weeks she was on the set in Majorca, having wet towels thrown over her by cast member Blake Harrison, who plays Neil and is famed for his dance moves.
“I really enjoyed the experience. It just takes a bit more effort to employ someone with a disability. You need wheelchair accessible transport etc, but it is a better and more honest approach to the role and always comes off with more authenticity,” she said.
The ambitious teenager, who calls Mayo her “second home” said the acting world was extremely challenging for a person with a disability.
“It is just so hard to land a part and it is not because there are no disabled characters. It’s just non-disabled actors who seem to get them,” she said. “The majority of the ‘disabled’ characters on TV, such as the boy in the wheelchair on ‘Glee’ are in fact able-bodied actors.
“Years ago white people used to ‘black up’ to play black characters but that would not wash these days. There would be a huge backlash, yet there seems to be different rules when it comes to disabled people,” she added.
– Edel O’Connell