Bryan Cranston Is Under Fire for His Latest Role as a Disabled Man
Though we’ve no doubt made progress when it comes to inclusion in Hollywood (good luck trying to cast Scarlett Johansson as a transgender man and/or Asian cyborg in 2019), it’s hardly gold stars across the board.
Most recently, Bryan Cranston (he was in that show about meth, remember?) was called out for his portrayal of a quadriplegic man in upcoming drama The Upside (a remake of France’s The Intouchables). Playing opposite Kevin Hart (so already one strike in on the “is this problematic?” scale), Cranston told Yahoo Movies UK that he was “very aware that an able-bodied person is sitting in a wheelchair” during the filming. Should the role have maybe gone to someone who actually sits in a wheelchair? Well, the Breaking Bad alum would like to leave that decision to the studios.
“The real business dynamic of that is the choice of the studios to try to see if they can make an investment into a film that could bring a return, so that wasn’t part of my decision making,” he said, noting, “But I think it points out the lack of diversity in disabled actors and the lack of opportunity in order to be even considered to play the lead role in a film like this.”
Cranston makes a fair point, but one that’s a bit surprising considering his relationship with Bad’s RJ Mitte, who played the actor’s son for five years. Mitte has Cerebral Palsy, and is one of the few working actors who suffers from the disorder. Where Bad was progressive in casting an actor who actually shared the affliction of his character, Cranston asks, “Are there any actors who have reached any kind of star status to be able to be considered? I think by not coming up with an answer to that is the answer to that. There is a dearth of opportunity for actors with a disability.”
Twitter agreed that the status-driven casting process was part of the problem, leaving little room for disadvantaged lesser-knowns to break into the industry.
Still, many maintained their conviction that it's an actor's job to be someone they aren't and that the conversation about inclusion has taken a step too far.