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April 14, 2022
Foundation awards its Seal of Authentic Representation to “Eternals” for casting Lauren Ridloff, who is deaf, and to “Hawkeye” for casting Alaqua Cox, who is deaf and has a prosthetic leg
Awardees also include HBO Max comedy-drama series “And Just Like That…”, NBC drama series “Ordinary Joe” and Hulu mystery-comedy series “Only Murders in the Building”
Boston, April 14th, 2022 – Two Marvel Studios productions — the superhero film “Eternals” and the TV miniseries “Hawkeye” — are among the five productions honored today by the Ruderman Family Foundation for practicing the inclusion and authentic representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.
Makkari in “Eternals,” played by Lauren Ridloff, an actor who is deaf, and Maya Lopez in “Hawkeye,” played by Alaqua Cox, also an actor who is deaf, are the first two Marvel superhero characters who are deaf, both authentically cast by the production company. Cox is also an amputee and has a prosthetic leg.
“Makkari is full of heart and wisdom,” said writer and director of “Eternals,” Oscar-winning filmmaker Chloé Zhao. “She is strong, charismatic, mysterious and mischievous. We are very lucky to have found Laruen Ridloff who is our real-life Makkari! She has brought this character to life with love and conviction and has taught us so much in the process. I’m very proud of her and of Marvel Studios for advocating authentic representations for the big screen and so honored that ‘Eternals’ has received the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation.”
Zhao’s praise of Ridloff is one shared by Sarah Finn, the casting force behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe: “Having Lauren Ridloff portray the first deaf Superhero as the character of Makkari in Chloe Zhao’s “Eternals” was groundbreaking and thrilling,” she said. “Not only was she overly qualified to join an already high-level cast, she elevated the ensemble with her unique spirit, talents and charisma. It’s been a privilege getting to know her through the process and seeing what a real-life hero she has become to so many.”
Finn’s co-casting director for “Eternals,” Anna Tenney also commented, stating: “The casting of Lauren Ridloff as Makkari was an excellent choice and one that holds a lot of meaning, especially for young people. They need role models; they need to see people like them. And they need good role models, to show them that no matter what they face, whether they’re deaf or hard of hearing, they can be and do anything they set their minds to.
“Lauren’s performance in ‘Eternals’ was extraordinary and amazing to watch. She did an amazing job portraying her character, Makkari,” Tenney continued. “It means a lot for ‘Eternals’ to receive the Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation because it shows that this superhero film is allowing children to not only see that superheroes come in many different forms, but that dreams can come true for everyone. I truly hope that we may see actors/actresses that have disabilities in more film and TV shows. As a director and producer myself, I include everyone in my films no matter ethnic group or disability because we all have the right to make our dreams come true.”
Finn, who took on the gargantuan task of casting nearly every actor who appears in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has played a huge role in the franchise’s recent push towards greater authenticity. In the case of Marvel’s casting of Cox in Hawkeye, she said: “Alaqua Cox’s character Maya Lopez/Echo is based off an existing Marvel character who is Deaf and Native American. In casting the role, we wanted to celebrate and honor both Deaf and Native American cultures. We couldn’t be more delighted by Alaqua Cox’s performance. She is phenomenal and part of a new culture in film and television where authentic representation not only matters, but is paramount to the kind of stories we want to tell and how we shape them. We’re incredibly honored to be Awarded a Seal of Authentic Representation by the Ruderman Family Foundation.”
The Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation award recognizes films and television series whose casting decisions demonstrate a commitment toward full inclusiveness in popular culture. The current group of honorees includes:
“We are gratified to witness this latest group of studio productions implement the crucial values of inclusion and authentic representation in their casting decisions,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “These practices are increasingly becoming the norm in Hollywood, with the authentic casting of Lauren Ridloff in ‘Eternals’ and Alaqua Cox in “Hawkeye” marking a particularly high-profile and momentous milestone for Marvel and the entire entertainment industry. Each time a casting director or other executive makes such a decision, it facilitates the industry’s broader journey towards fulfilling its full potential as a beacon of all forms of diversity and social justice.”
Bernie Telsey, “And Just Like That…” casting director, said, “We’ve been fans of Ali’s work since we met her, and it’s exciting watching her talent become ever more widely recognized, so much so that Michael Patrick King wrote this role specifically for her.”
Co-casting director for the series, Tiffany Little Canfield, stated, “Ali Stroker is one of our favorite actors, an artist who has paved the way for many differently abled artists to come after her. She’s a trailblazer and it has been an honor to cast her in our projects…I look forward to casting her for years to come!”
John Hoffman — showrunner and co-creator for “Only Murders in the Building” — said, “I am truly honored to accept the Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation for the casting and amazing work of James Caverly in ‘Only Murders in the Building.’ When we first wrote the character of Theo Dimas, and the subsequent episode, ‘The Boy From 6B,’ we immediately committed ourselves to casting a deaf actor as Theo.”
Hoffman continued, “In finding James Caverly, we not only benefited from his remarkable talents, but also from the sharing of his vast knowledge, personal experience and his advocacy on how best to authentically represent a deaf character in the most truthful and connective way for our audience. Along with a great assist from Douglas Ridloff, we worked to achieve respect and understanding of how best to create the environment, in script and on-set, so James could work freely and create an indelible portrait of his character. To know that the Foundation recognized his, and our, efforts is so gratifying — and, I believe, only points to more and continued efforts that are so necessary to achieving further inclusiveness in representation. On behalf of all of us here in the Building at ‘Only Murders,’ our deepest and most sincere appreciation.”
Garrett Lerner — co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of “Ordinary Joe” — said, “My son Zeke lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, so it was a very personal decision to make our main character Joe Kimbreau a special needs parent and to tell stories from the unique perspective of my own family experience. Once Russel and I had written the script, we told our studio partners in the very first casting concept meeting that casting Joe’s son Christopher as authentically as possible was crucial to us. We did not want to cast a Hollywood child actor and teach him or her how to use a power wheelchair. Along with the support of our studio and our casting directors, we conducted a nationwide search through the SMA community, through the MDA community, and various other contacts — hoping to leave no stone unturned and discover an amazing talent that may not otherwise have an opportunity.
“Thanks to new technologies like batch emails and iPhones, we were able to get our audition sides to young actors all over the country and solicited dozens and dozens ‘selfie auditions’ — and that quickly led us to John Gluck.
“In one of the audition scenes, it is written that the character of Christopher plays piano with his dad. John doesn’t play, so instead he sang. And if you’ve seen ‘Ordinary Joe,’ you know that John Gluck sings with the voice of an angel. He was immediately elevated to leading contender because music is an important part of our show.
“John had never acted professionally, but he seemed very natural in his audition. So, we reached out, got him on Zoom, and had him do a ‘chemistry read’ with James Wolk who would be playing his dad. Our jaws hit the floor as we quickly realized that John was whip smart, naturally funny, charismatic, and radiated a warmth that made you just love him. We had a star on our hands.
“Honestly, the most gratifying part of making ‘Ordinary Joe’ was finding John Gluck, giving him this opportunity, and watching him shine. And the greatest reward was seeing how he’s been embraced by the disabled community and how important his casting has been to so many people. When my own son thanked me for casting the role with proper representation, well… that was a career and life highlight.
“Receiving the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation means the world to Russel Friend and myself. It lets us know we got it right. And hopefully uncovering a star like John Gluck will inspire other creators to get it right, too.”
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