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Do Actors with Learning and/or Physical Disabilities Have a Chance?

One of the truly beautiful aspects of acting is that anyone can do it. Movies and theater shows seek to imitate real life, and as such, there are roles for people of all shapes, and sizes and productions need good actors to fill those roles. For actors with disabilities, this means that there are opportunities available if you know where to look. Many actors with physical or mental disabilities have made successful careers in Hollywood by focusing on their craft and using their uniqueness to their advantage.

Famous Actors with Disabilities

There are dozens of notable performers who have succeeded in Hollywood despite learning and/or physical disabilities. For example, movie stars Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bruce Willis all suffer from dyslexia while Jim Carrey has ADHD. Also, Vern Troyer is a well-known actor despite being one of the shortest men in the world. These actors prove that it is possible to be a successful actor with a disability and that, in some cases, a perceived disability can be a career booster. Here are two more notable actors with disabilities who have made the most of their acting opportunities.

Peter Dinklage

Mr. Dinklage has had a long career in Hollywood and is a highly respected actor with a Golden Globe award and an Emmy award to his name. When HBO was casting Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, they knew they needed a dwarf actor and Dinklage was ready. Now, Peter Dinklage has become the go-to actor for roles that are written for little people, a testament to his understanding of himself as an actor. The fact that he was born with dwarfism is merely a footnote to his success.

Keira Knightley

Today, Keira Knightley is an A-list leading lady but all her success didn't come easily. Keira was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 6 and struggled in school. Despite this, Knightley persevered and committed herself to her studies because she knew she wanted to act. Her experience with dyslexia taught her the value of hard work and she credits her learning disability for teaching her how to overcome obstacles.

Know Thyself

It is important for all actors to know their "type", or the roles that they can play convincingly on the screen and stage. This fact holds true for actors with physical and/or learning disabilities and once your type is determined, finding appropriate roles becomes much easier. A recent example is RJ Mitte, who played Walt Jr. on Breaking Bad. RJ actually has cerebral palsy in real life which made him an easy choice to portray a character affected by the same condition. Experience, studying, and practice can make this revelation much easier, and you can do so at an acting summer camp, or by taking acting classes.

Study and Work Hard

A lesson that can be learned from Keira Knightley is the value of hard work. Even though she struggled in school, she was dedicated to her learning for the sake of her acting skills. Actors with disabilities may find practicing and studying acting difficult, but nothing can replace a strong work ethic as an aspiring actor with a disability.

In the end, actors with disabilities do have a chance in Hollywood, especially if they are able to use their perceived disability as an advantage in their career. Actors of all types will always be in demand, and that includes actors with disabilities. Focus on becoming the best actor that you can be, and marketing yourself as a unique performer, and progress will be made.

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