Over 70 members of the Deaf community in Hollywood have taken a stand against The Stand after a hearing actor was cast in the role of a Deaf character. The miniseries is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name and it was released December 17 on CBS All Access. It follows a small group of apocalypse survivors hoping to rebuild civilization after a weaponized antigen virus wipes out 99.4% of the world’s population.
The Stand novel was previously adapted into a miniseries that aired on ABC Television in 1994, which was generally well-received by fans and critics. The new CBS mini-series is more relevant to the current times, however, and features an all-star cast including Alexander Skarsgård, Whoopi Goldberg, Amber Heard, Ezra Miller, Nat Wolff, Greg Kinnear, Odessa Young, and James Marsden. But it was the casting of Henry Zaga (a hearing actor) in the role of Nick Andros (a Deaf character) that caused the current controversy.
TV writer Jade Bryan shared a statement dubbed “We Stand Against The Stand” on Twitter on the day of the show’s premiere, more than a year after the original casting announcement. The statement condemned the show for perpetuating “the cycle of misrepresentation and unequal or non-existent employment opportunities for Deaf professionals in the entertainment industry” and was signed by over 70 Deaf industry workers. Signatories include Antoinette Abbamonte, known for her work on The New Normal and Curb Your Enthusiasm, James Caverly, who stars in A Bennett Song Holiday and Chicago Med, and Dickie Hearts from Tales of the City and Grace and Frankie. As per the statement, the signatories will not “endorse, watch, or support” The Stand. Check out the full Twitter statement below:
As a Black Deaf filmmaker/TV Creator, advocate of diversity & inclusion, acting instructor, & creator/owner of #Deaftalent®️ campaign, I believe in change. It shouldn’t be that difficult to cast the right person for the role.#StandAgainstTheStand #TheStand #RepresentationMatter pic.twitter.com/WBpomfxpmz
— Jade Bryan – TV Writer & #DeafTalent® Consultant (@DeafShowRunner) December 17, 2020
The CBS miniseries is not the first film or TV show to come under fire for its portrayal of people with disabilities. For example, The Witches movie was recently criticized for depicting limb difference as something scary and grotesque. Real people with limb differences started the hashtag #NotAWitch on Twitter, and Anne Hathaway ultimately apologized for any pain her character may have caused. But while these movements and boycotts often elicit public apologies from those involved, it’s thus far unclear if Hollywood is actually changing.
In this day and age, The Stand crew has no excuse for casting Zaga in the role of a Deaf character. But as unacceptable as it may be, the casting decision likely won’t stop the majority of audiences from watching the show. The boycott does continue to raise awareness about Deaf representation on and offscreen, however, and will hopefully help prevent these kinds of disrespectful decisions from being made in the future. Those involved in the casting of Zaga – as well as Zaga himself – will likely issue apologies for their disregard of the Deaf community. But one can only hope that The Stand marks the end of retrospective remorse in Hollywood and the beginning of real, tangible change.