A casting director called me this morning looking for an actor with Downs Syndrome to take part in a TV pilot workshop.
Happily, I could point her in a positive direction.
More and more writers and producers are choosing to create characters with moderate learning disabilities, indicating real progress in terms of representation.
The tips below may be helpful for the casters and directors making this new explosion of artistic diversity happen…
If you plan to engage an actor with moderate learning disabilities you will need to book them further ahead than is usual.
Experienced and trained actors with moderate learning disabilities like Downs Syndrome need extra time to learn lines and understand your plans for your audition/workshop/rehearsal because they have difficulties with reading (many of these actors don’t read and learn dialogue in different ways).
A call on Wednesday for a spot on Saturday isn’t enough time.
At least two weeks is reasonable.
Support needs and costs
Actors with moderate learning disabilities will need a creative enabler, or supporter.
When budgeting, aside from paying your actor, you will also need to find appropriate fees to cover an enabler and then to negotiate the role you want that person to have in your process/rehearsal room.
All disability is different
Actors who are deaf/physically disabled often have the same cognitive abilities and linguistic skills as non disabled actors.
Actors with learning disabilities usually work and communicate in different ways from non disabled actors.
Working with deaf/physically disabled actors is not the same as working with actors with learning disabilities, who usually need very specific routes into access (communication style and pace, assistance with line learning and understanding story, character and scene, navigating the rehearsal/studio space and relationships with team and crew).
Not all learning-disabled actors are in London.
Sometimes you will find the talent you’re looking for in the provinces.
This will cost you more but offer you more choice.
Involve the inspiration from the get-go.
You’re doing a great thing by casting a learning disabled actor.
Being a pioneer isn’t easy, why not gain knowledge at the start of the journey?
There are very few actors with moderate learning disabilities in the UK working professionally and most of those that do are supported by specialist companies.
Collaborating at the story development and production planning points can pay dividends.
Many of us want your work to be the best it can be, let us help you….