Statements & Press Releases

Statements & Press Releases

Statements Press Release

“Grey’s Anatomy” Honored Among Ruderman Family Foundation’s Latest Round of Seal of Authentic Representation Recipients

November 11, 2020

The disability rights organization also recognizes “Locke & Key,” “Little Voice,” “Away,” “Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” and “Run” for authentically casting actors with disabilities.


Boston, November 11th 2020 – The Ruderman Family Foundation today announced that it is honoring ABC’s hit medical drama series “Grey’s Anatomy” and five other productions for their casting decisions which have contributed to the growing momentum on the inclusion and authentic representation of people with disabilities in Hollywood.


For the fifth time, the Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation award is recognizing films and television series which demonstrate a commitment toward full inclusiveness in popular culture. The current group of honorees includes:


  • Grey’s Anatomy” for casting deaf actress Shoshannah Stern as Dr. Lauren Riley, a doctor who is deaf, in season 16. Riley diagnoses Suzanne Britland, who developed mysterious symptoms following an appendectomy.
  • The Netflix series “Locke & Key” for its casting of Eric Graise, whose legs were amputated as a child due to missing fibula bones, and Coby Bird, an actor who has autism. Graise plays the role of double-leg amputee Logan Calloway and Bird plays Rufus Wheldon, who has an unspecified mental disability.
  • The Apple TV+ coming-of-age drama series “Little Voice” for casting Kevin Valdez, who has autism, as Louie, a character with autism who is a Broadway enthusiast.
  • Netflix’s “Away” for its casting of Felicia Patti, who served as a self-advocate intern at the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, as Cassie Ramirez, whose character has Down syndrome and is the only child of a single parent.
  • Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” an independent film about two teenagers with Down syndrome who escape their social isolation by convincing the entire state of Rhode Island to help them make an extremely questionable zombie movie.
  • The motion picture “Run” for its casting of Kiera Allen, who uses a wheelchair, in a lead role as Chloe, a homeschooled teenager who begins to suspect her mother is keeping dark secrets from her about her medical care.

“Representation matters profoundly. When people see themselves depicted in a way that is authentic, their imagination in terms of what is possible for their own lives expands,” said showrunner and Executive Producer of Grey’s Anatomy Krista Vernoff. “If Dr. Riley allowed even one deaf child to imagine for the first time that she could be a doctor, and if Shoshannah Stern’s portrayal inspired even one deaf child to believe that she could be an actress, that’s a beautiful thing.”

“I’m proud to know that ‘Little Voice’ is receiving the Ruderman Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation and that the world is beginning to give everyone a chance, and for me to be a representative of the disabled community,” Kevin Valdez said. “It is an honor for me to have the chance to prove my abilities to the world. I hope that this inspires others to continue to invest in all people so they can showcase their talents to the public. Thanks to everybody who believed in me and advanced my career.”

“We’re so honored that the Ruderman Family Foundation is awarding us their Seal of Authentic Representation for casting Felicia Patti in Away. Felicia brought so much heart and joy to the role Cassie, and even more enthusiasm to the family we had on set.  It is our job as storytellers to show the human race as we truly are, in all our diverse complexity. Authentic representation not only reflects a more relatable world, but a more truthful one,” said Jessica Goldberg, an Executive Producer on the show. “Thank you to the Ruderman Family Foundation for shining a light on the lack of characters with disabilities on television, and for acknowledging the wonderful actress, Felicia Patti, in her role as Cassie Ramirez!”

“I walked into Sam and Mattie Make a Zombie after over a decade in the film industry, thinking that I would be the one teaching Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt about filmmaking,” said co-Director of “Sam & Mattie Make a Zombie Movie,” Bobby Carnevale. “Little did I know, they would be the ones teaching me the whole time. I mean it, it’s impossible to explain how much I’ve learned from Sam & Mattie, not only about the creative process, but about myself, who I want to work with, and what sort of filmmaker I want to be in the future. I’m so appreciative of the Ruderman Foundation awarding this film the Seal of Authentic Representation. I feel like their support and ongoing spotlight on the lack of inclusiveness will make profound changes in the future of the film industry.”


“We are incredibly honored to accept the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation,” the producers of “Locke & Key” said. “It’s important to us as storytellers that our show reflects the real world. Coby Bird and Eric Graise are tremendous actors whose characters are not defined by their disabilities. We will strive always to find ways to uphold our commitment to diversity and inclusiveness within our show.”


“On behalf of Natalie Qasabian, Sev Ohanian and myself, we’re honored that the film has been presented with the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation. The decision to cast Kiera was as much about her raw talent as it was about setting a precedent that would open more doors for her and, hopefully, other actors with disabilities waiting in the wings,” said Writer and Director of “Run”, Aneesh Chaganty.


The Seal of Authentic Representation is awarded 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 Foundation announces the honor whenever a film or TV series meets those standards. Previously, honorees included TV series “This is Us,” “General Hospital,” and “The Politician,” as well as feature films “Peanut Butter Falcon” and “Spare Room.”


After a groundbreaking study conducted by the Ruderman Family Foundation in 2016 had discovered that an astonishing 95% of top show characters with disabilities on TV were played by actors without disabilities, a new study released by the Foundation in February documented progress, revealing that 22% of all characters with disabilities on network television are portrayed authentically by an actor with the same disability. According to the new study, 20 percent of characters with disabilities are authentically casted on streaming services.


“With each and every authentic casting decision, Hollywood takes another crucial step toward fulfilling its true and long-unrealized potential as a beacon of inclusion and diversity in all its forms,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “The latest recipients of the Seal of Authentic Representation, building off the momentum generated by our previous rounds of honorees, powerfully exhibit the fact that Hollywood increasingly considers disability as an important part of diversity. We are hopeful and eager to see the conversation continue to move in this direction across the entertainment industry.”


Read the full press release in Variety here!

Stay Included

To stay up to date on our most recent advocacy efforts, events and exciting developments, subscribe to our newsletter and blog!