There are just a few comedy shows that feature children with disabilities – let alone an actor with a real disability. That is about to change as ABC announced this week it has selected the pilot “Speechless” to make into a television show. This will be the first comedy that I know of that an actor actually has a disability, who is playing someone with a disability.
Scott Silveri, former writer and producer of Friends, will produce this groundbreaking show. Speechless will follow the DiMeo’s, a family of five. One of their children has some kind of disability, although it remains unclear what it is. Hints indicate that the oldest son, JJ, played by Micah Fowler, who has cerebral palsy in real life, speaks only with assistance of a communication device in the comedy. The mother, Maya, portrayed by Minnie Driver, will do anything for her three kids. She is determined to fix negative disability viewpoints—real or fake. At the same time, the family wants to build a home where JJ can be independent and find his voice. There is not much known about the father, although his name will be Jimmy, played by Big Bang Theory‘s John Ross Bowie.
The show almost did not become reality; the pilot was in jeopardy as they had trouble finding actors to play the parents. At the last moment, Driver and Bowie stepped up and were cast as the parents.
ABC has been groundbreaking in its work to attract diverse audiences with such shows as Black-ish, Dr. Ken and Cristola, and Fresh Off The Boat. It seems as ABC is on the verge in adding the disability community to its list.
To my knowledge, the only television show to have a disabled actor is The Middle, which also originally aired on ABC. Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick Heck on the show, has Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which stunts his growth and causes brittle bones. It allows Shaffer to play his character three years behind his actual age, however his character in the show does not portray someone who has a disability. With Speechless, television will be adding someone who authentically uses a wheelchair for daily life.
I am excited to see how the show turns out, especially with Silveri producing. I hope the show captures what it truly is like to be disabled. Speechless is set to debut this fall on Wednesdays at 7:30 pm. To watch a preview, click here. WAY TO GO, ABC!
Written by: Michael L. Sack