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June 14, 2023
The highly popular HBO drama series “The Last of Us” is also among the latest productions recognized by the Ruderman Family Foundation for inclusive and authentic casting decisions.
Boston, June 14, 2023 – The recent Oscar winner “An Irish Goodbye” has garnered its latest accolade, with the Floodlight Pictures short film among the four productions honored today with the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation for practicing the inclusion and authentic representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.
James Martin, an actor with Down syndrome, stars in this year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film as Lorcan, a young man living with Down syndrome, as he navigates difficult family issues. Now, Martin’s role has also earned the film recognition from the Ruderman Family Foundation through its Seal of Authentic Representation award, which affirms the casting decisions of films and television series which demonstrate a commitment toward full inclusiveness in popular culture.
“When we set out to make ‘An Irish Goodbye,’ we were keen to feature a character with Down syndrome at the forefront of a story that refused to make disability its raison d’etre,” said Ross White and Tom Berkeley, the film’s co-writers and directors. “Much like our leading man James Martin, we hoped in Lorcan we were writing a multifaceted, complex individual with a shed-load of charisma, a mischievous sense of humor, and the agency to affect the story he finds himself in. It is our duty as storytellers to create well-rounded, interesting characters that give every actor the ability to shine, and we will forever be proud of the transcendent performance James gives in this film. I hope we have gone one step further to proving to the wider industry that protagonists with disabilities can be at the forefront of commercial and successful film narratives.”
The Ruderman Family Foundation awards the Seal of Authentic Representation when productions meet two criteria: they feature actors with disabilities with a speaking role of at least five lines; and they are in, or on the verge of, general release. The current group of honorees includes:
“At this year’s Oscars, ‘An Irish Goodbye’ produced the latest defining moment in the entertainment industry’s growing embrace of inclusion. We are gratified to recognize the authentic casting of James Martin, and to celebrate the broader momentum built by the Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “In fact, all four productions who are receiving this award in its latest round have embodied how authentic representation is poised to eventually become the rule for casting decisions, rather than the exception, as the entertainment industry continues to expand opportunities for people with disabilities.”
Vickie Thomas, Casting Director for “The Last of Us,” said, “Finding Keivonn was sort of a wonder, mainly because he is, but also because of the short amount of time in which we luckily found him. Because of Keivonn, the character of Sam had a built-in humanity and empathy. Hopefully his casting will help other actors with disabilities be cast not necessarily with their disability leading the way, but because of their skills and their essence.”
Cast member Stephanie Nogueras of “Accused” said, “I am grateful that ‘Accused’ received the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation because the film’s production team was simply seeking actors who are deaf who could reflect characters in themselves — and they did. I am humbly honored for their decision to cast me as Ava. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I applaud their efforts and respect for our language, culture, identity, and beyond, which allowed us to work together in harmony on the set. We, actors who are deaf, are eager to share our stories on screen only if we have true allies. Many congratulations and love to the entire team of ‘Accused.’”
“New Amsterdam” cast member Sandra Mae Frank said, “It’s a huge honor and much deserved, because portraying Dr. Elizabeth Wilder on NBC’s ‘New Amsterdam’ opened doors for more authentic casting and also brought awareness that there are deaf and hard-of-hearing people specialized in the medical field. It normalizes the expectation of deaf and hard-of-hearing people and for the viewers to finally see themselves and know they can achieve anything they set their minds to. For me, to play a character like Dr. Wilder was a dream because the writers of New Amsterdam didn’t only focus on her deafness, but rather, her knowledge and ability in the oncologist field truly brought so much beautiful challenges. I look forward to more characters like Dr. Wilder being normalized in mainstream television, films, and on stage.”
About the Ruderman Family Foundation
The Ruderman Family Foundation is an internationally recognized organization that advocates for the full inclusion of people with disabilities in our society. The Foundation supports effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the United States and the world.
The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community and imposes these values within its leadership and funding.
For more information, please visit www.rudermanfoundation.org
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