Statements & Press Releases

Statements & Press Releases

Statements Press Release

Ruderman Family Foundation Announces Latest “Seal of Authentic Representation” Honors

June 11, 2020

RFF recognizes “See,” “This is Us,” “Spare Room,” “Atypical” and “The Politician” for authentically casting actors with disabilities


Boston, June 2020 – Amid growing momentum for the inclusion and authentic representation of people with disabilities in Hollywood, the Ruderman Family Foundation today announced its latest accolades for entertainment productions which meet those standards.


For the fourth 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:


  • The Apple TV+ series “See” for casting Marilee Talkington and Bree Klauser, who both have legal blindness. Starring Jason Momoa, the show is set in a future where all humans have lost their sense of sight, until twins are born that have sight.
  • NBC’s “This is Us” for casting Blake Stadnik, an actor with Stargardt disease (a form of macular degeneration), as Jack Damon, a character who was born with retinopathy of prematurity. The show, about a set of triplets and their struggles, stars Chrissy Metz, Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia among many others.
  • The feature film “Spare Room”for casting Cole Sibus, an actor with Down Syndrome, as Arrow, a role which portrays the same disability. Sibus plays the brother of a widow who rents a room to a guilt-ridden war veteran attempting to make amends.
  • Netflix’s “Atypical” for authentically casting three actors with autism, including Dominique Brown, Layla Weiner, and Spencer Harte. Jennifer Jason Leigh also stars in the show, which is about a mother and son each going through a life-changing time.
  • Netflix’s “The Politician” for casting Ryan J. Haddad, who has cerebral palsy, as Andrew Cashman, a character with cerebral palsy. The show also features Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange in a story about a young man in high school and his aspirations to be President of the United States.


“I am grateful to the Ruderman Family Foundation for its steadfast commitment to disability inclusion in entertainment, and I thank the Foundation for recognizing ‘The Politician’ with its Seal of Authentic Representation,” Ryan Haddad said. “Series creators Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan set out to populate the world of their satirical high school with a variety of voices without calling attention to it in the scripts. It’s been a privilege for me to inhabit their story and their words. This kind of disability inclusion is refreshing, truthful, and necessary. We exist in the world, we can be part of any story, and those stories need not be laser focused on our disabilities in order for us to play meaningful roles.”


“It is incredibly important for the entertainment industry to authentically cast characters with disabilities,” Blake Stadnik said. “Not only does it deservingly give work to some of the most talented actors I know, but it also influences the audience’s perception of disability as a whole. Personally, it would have been beyond meaningful to see a person with low vision play a character like Jack when I was growing up. I am honored to possibly be that for someone now, and I am so proud to be a part of a show that wants to authentically represent everyone’s story.”


“From the moment I auditioned an actor with Down syndrome to this day, I was changed as an artist and moved by each actor’s family and commitment to their child’s efforts,” said “Spare Room” director Jenica Bergere. “For them, the part was a rare opportunity, and the discipline and effort everyone put forth would put some Hollywood actors to shame. The opportunity to tell stories that are inclusive of actors with Down Syndrome; actors that are female and over the age of 40; actors that are Persian, Asian, black, brown, transgender, white, old, and just plain authentic to the world we live in, is an opportunity I actively seek and yet it’s still hard to find.”


“Thank you so much for presenting SEE with the Seal of Authentic Representation. From the very early stages in developing this project, we were determined to build a post-apocalyptic world that would portray an authentic perception of a much-reduced civilization without sight. This idea fed into every creative choice we made throughout production, but would not have been either possible or respectful without the inclusion of our blind and low-vision cast members, like Marilee Talkington, Bree Klauser and creative partner behind the scenes, Joe Strechay,” said Director Francis Lawrence. “It was a very fulfilling experience and it’s my hope that future productions will be more encouraged to incorporate the blind and low-vision community on their sets regardless of the story being told.”


“I appreciate that Hollywood is making sure that people with disabilities are included in portraying their own disabilities,” Layla Weiner said. “For ‘Atypical,’ I not only loved being able to act as someone on the spectrum but also to play someone who is a person of color with a disability. Although it is a good start for Hollywood to finally include us, more in the area of inclusion of people of color with disabilities needs to happen.”


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. The previous round of honorees included the TV series “Tales of the City,” “General Hospital,” “Years and Years” and “Loudermilk.”


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.


“We are gratified to see the ongoing progress in the realm of authentic representation in entertainment, including from the latest recipients of our Seal of Authentic Representation,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “At the same time, we hope that these recognitions continue to inspire broader institutional change in Hollywood, motivating more producers and directors to not only audition but eventually cast actors with disabilities — especially in the roles that they are uniquely qualified to play. For far too long, disability has been glaringly left out of Hollywood’s conversation surrounding diversity, and inclusive and authentic casting decisions play a significant role in righting this historical wrong.”


Read the release in Deadline.



Stay Included

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