Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston has been criticised for playing a wheelchair user in an upcoming movie. Critics are asking whether it is ever right for non-disabled actors to play a disabled role.
Breaking Bad actor, Cranston has defended playing a wheelchair user in upcoming comedy-drama The Upside.
The plot follows quadriplegic millionaire Phillip and his new live-in carer Dell, played by comedian Kevin Hart, as they build a relationship. Dell is a recently paroled criminal with no care experience looking for work.
Hart spent time with carers in the lead up to shooting the movie to gain insight into looking after a quadriplegic person.
As the film’s release date (11 January 2019) approaches it has faced criticism for casting a non-disabled actor in a disabled role.
Cranston has defended playing a disabled role calling it a business decision while speaking to the Press Association during a press day for the movie.
While he said he is aware of the need to expand opportunities for people with disabilities, he went on to compare the situation to a wealthy person playing a person who is not wealthy.
He told the Press Association: “As actors, we’re asked to be other people, to play other people. If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy. Does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?”
The film is a remake of 2011 French film Les Untouchables which in 2012 became the highest grossing movie in a language other than English. French actor François Cluzet, who is non-disabled, played quadriplegic character Philippe in the movie.
Critics both in and out-with the disabled community have taken to social media to express their concerns about casting Cranston in the role.
The Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation consulted on the film alongside former American football player Eric LeGrand who suffered a spinal injury in 2010. The Kessler Institute is a a medical rehabilitation centre providing specialised care for people with spinal injury, amputation and more.
The criticism is part of a larger discussion on Hollywood actors taking roles away from minority groups including disabled people, people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community.
Previously actor, Jake Gyllenhaal received criticism for playing a double-amputee in 2017 film Stronger, the real-life story of Jeff Bauman who survived the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. No other actors were considered for the role.
Gyllenhaal is one in a long list of non-disabled actors who have played a disabled character in films and TV shows, sparking a call for greater representation in the media.
Cranston is most well-known for his performance as Walter White in Breaking Bad in which his son, Walt Jr, has cerebral palsy. Walt Jr was played by RJ Mitte who has the disability himself.