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The Stand: Anger Over Actor Cast In Deaf Role For Stephen King TV Series

December 21, 2020

Members of Hollywood’s deaf community are boycotting CBS’s new mini-series The Stand, based on Stephen King’s novel, after a hearing actor was selected to play a deaf character.

More than 70 people signed a letter saying it was “not acceptable” that the CBS All Access series cast Henry Zaga as deaf character Nick Andros.

“We will not endorse, watch or support your mini-series… We will share our displeasure,” they said.

The BBC has asked CBS for comment.

The show is about a flu epidemic that wipes out 99% of the population, with the remaining few immune to the disease.

In June, CBS signed a commitment to audition actors with disabilities, according to Deadline, which said it was the first entertainment company to sign the Ruderman Family Foundation’s pledge for this cause.

But the protest letter said “not one deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role”, and “the decision was made without respect to and for deaf professionals”.

It added: “There was no acknowledgement given to the psyche of a deaf character, being deaf is more than just not hearing.”

The Hollywood Reporter said CBS is meeting people from the deaf artists’ community to discuss the issue.

The first episode of The Stand, which also stars Whoopi Goldberg and Amber Heard, was released on Thursday. Last August, deaf actor Nyle DiMarco tweeted in protest at the casting.

The letter’s signatories include Antoinette Abbamonte, whose work include Curb Your Enthusiasm; and Dickie Hearts, who has appeared in Tales of the City and Grace and Frankie.

It adds: “We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the mini-series on CBS All Access with our deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide.”

There are about 466 million people worldwide with disabling hearing loss, according to the World Health Organization.

In 2018, Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton, two former stars of British soap Hollyoaks won an Oscar for The Silent Child, their short film which tells the story of a profoundly deaf girl who struggles to communicate. It starred Maisie Sly, who they found after advertising on the websites of deaf organisations and then auditioning 100 children.

Last January, The Good Place star Jameela Jamil, who was born partially deaf but regained her hearing after surgery, said she had turned down an opportunity to play a deaf woman because she felt the role should go to a deaf actress.

“I said it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role,” she told the Press Association.

“I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space,” she added. “I don’t want to be part of erasure.”

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