Ramy Youssef Says Hollywood Must Do Better for Actors With Disabilities
Comedian and actor Ramy Youssef challenged the misconception that actors with disabilities are more difficult to work with on set than other talent. Referring to the treatment of Steve Way, his friend and co-star on “Ramy” who was born with muscular dystrophy, Youssef said producers questioned how long Way could work per day and how well audiences would understand him.
“A lot of A-list stars only have four takes in them, and productions figure out how to really work around their demands and their needs, and someone like Steve doesn’t even have that many demands or needs in order to be put into a position to succeed,” he said during a speech at this year’s Media Access Awards.
He was honored with the Writers Guild of America West Evan Summers Memorial award for his work on “Ramy” during the event, which celebrated those who help bring about a more inclusive environment for disabled professionals in the film and television industries. Other industry professionals from both in front of and behind the camera also received awards during the streamed awards show, hosted by Nyle DiMarco, on Thursday.
“The Walking Dead” star Lauren Ridloff received the SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell award during the show. She offered her appreciation for actors with disabilities who came before her, leading the charge and opening the industry up to better representation.
“This award is a reminder of the opportunities I’ve been given thanks to those who paved the way for me on broadways and in Hollywood,” the deaf actress said. “Because of their talents and advocacy, I’ve been given an incredible platform that allows me to continue the work of reshaping the deaf narrative.
Winners of the inaugural MAA documentary award for Netflix’s “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” directors Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham shared the importance of depicting people with disabilities in accurate, empowering ways. “Our goal was to try to reframe what it might mean to be disabled and how people perceive being disabled, not just within the community, but without,” LeBrecht said.
The documentary follows LeBrecht’s formative experience at Camp Jened, a 1970s summer camp for teens with disabilities. It also explores the ways campers became inspired to engage in the disability rights movement as activists.
“I would love to acknowledge the incredible people that I went to summer camp with,” LeBrecht said. “Their story and our legacy is something that we both didn’t want to have lost to history, but it was that place where many of us came together as a community and really found our true spirit in a way that we had never had before.”
Other honorees include Netflix’s “Away,” casting director Leah Daniels-Butler as well as Danny J. Gomez, who took home the Christopher Reeve Acting Scholarship.