With the start of the new season, a major television network is committing to feature more actors with disabilities, both in roles written as having disabilities and those that do not.
CBS unveiled a new initiative late last week aimed at expanding opportunities for historically underrepresented groups of performers, including those with disabilities.
Through the effort known as “The CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative,” the network said it plans to achieve “meaningful representation and inclusion” for performers with disabilities through roles as series regulars, guest stars or co-stars in current series and pilots.
“By focusing on professional growth and supporting these performers, this initiative helps to provide opportunities and much-needed exposure in the industry,” said Claudia Lyon, executive vice president of talent and casting at CBS Entertainment. “There are so many talented performers available who are often overlooked and are not being considered for roles, so our goal with this initiative is to help bridge that gap.”
CBS said it has worked with advocacy groups, conducted open calls and taken other steps to establish a database of performers with disabilities as part of the new initiative, which is already in use for the 2022-2023 broadcast and pilot season.
In addition, the network plans to hold an informational panel this fall to help those with disabilities learn what casting directors are looking for as well as acting workshops. An annual open call for those with disabilities is also expected to be held before each pilot season.
This is not CBS’s first foray into disability inclusion. In 2019, the network was the first to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation pledge, committing to audition actors with disabilities for each new production they bring to series.
People with disabilities have long been underrepresented on television. A report out earlier this year examining 775 regular characters on scripted broadcast series during the 2021-2022 television season found that just 22 characters — or 2.8% — had disabilities.
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