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Disabled Actors Protest ‘Ironside': ‘Like Having A White Guy Do Blackface’

Disabled Actors Protest Ironside Over The Use Of Blair Underwood

Disabled actors have spoken out in protest against Ironside, the police procedural about a paraplegic detective in New York. The Wrap first reported on the outrage late Monday.

The reason: Blair Underwood, an able-bodied actor, is playing the role.

“This would be like being in the ’50s and having a white guy do blackface, at this point,” said Sons of Anarchy star Kurt Yaeger, who is also a pro BMX rider, whose left leg was severed following a motorcycle accident. “You need to start having disabled people playing disabled characters. Period.”

Auti Angel of the reality series Push Girls agreed. “What are they afraid of? There are so many extremely talented individuals who are performing artists with a different ability.”

Yaeger and Angel definitely have a point, which was echoed by disabled actors Robert Romani and Larry Sapp. Look at the major disabled characters on TV — Kevin McHale on Glee; Terry O’Quinn from Lost; D.J. Qualls on Legit — and you won’t find a disabled actor in the bunch.

The Wrap approached NBC, home of Ironside, for comment, but the network declined.

Further solidifying the case, the website presented 20 able-bodied actors, who are or have played disabled characters. One of the actors: Raymond Burr, who starred in the original Ironside series, one of his few post-Perry Mason successes.

NBC ordered the Ironside remake with Underwood in the starring role earlier this month. At the time, it seemed like a great move for the network, which has been struggling in ratings as of late. Having disabled actors protest Ironside could mar some of that momentum.

In case you’re not turned off by the blind eye to disabled actors, this incarnation of Ironside will follow the titular detective as he pushes his hand-picked team of cops to solve the most challenging cases in the city.

Do you think NBC should have hired a paraplegic for the role, and do you believe the disabled actors protest of Ironside is accurate in stating that Blair Underwood is like having a “white guy do blackface”?

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One Response to “Disabled Actors Protest ‘Ironside': ‘Like Having A White Guy Do Blackface’”

  1. John Patrick Tooley

    Unless they can find a paraplegic who can also walk, there's little point complaining about Lost casting an able bodied actor as Locke, who is in a wheelchair for part of the show but walks in the majority of his scenes.