CBS’ new drama The Stand, an adaptation of Stephen King’s classic dystopian novel, has come under fire for casting an actor who can hear to play a deaf character, with activists now calling on Hollywood studios to change their hiring practices.
Prominent members of the deaf community in a new letter that has been circulating online. The miniseries casts hearing actor Henry Zaga in the role of Nick Andros, the lone deaf survivor of a virus that wipes out most of humanity.
“Enough is enough!” reads the letter. “We, the undersigned, are all professional union and non-union members and are taking a stand in the release of the miniseries, The Stand.” More than 70 individuals — including actress and disability activist Keely Cat-Wells and actor John McGinty — are calling out the miniseries, which is the new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic dystopian novel, The Stand.
“The selection of the hearing actor to portray Nick Andros in The Stand is not acceptable. The character, Nick Andros is Deaf and signs. Not one Deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role,” the letter reads. “The decision was made without respect to and for Deaf professionals, union, and non-union alike. There was no acknowledgement given to the psyche of a Deaf character; being Deaf is more than just not hearing.”
“At the time of diversity and inclusion, this cycle of misrepresentation and unequal or non-existent employment opportunities for Deaf professionals in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera, must end,” the letter states. “This has been happening for decades.”
The Stand stars Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgård, James Marsden, among others.
The letter goes on to say that the undersigned “will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access. We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the miniseries on CBS All Access with our Deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of Deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide.”
The letter concludes by calling on Hollywood to change its hiring practices.
“It is time for industry professionals to create opportunities for Deaf talent to work on the set, in front of, and behind the camera, in the writing rooms, sit on creative teams when there is a Deaf character involved in the storyline. Our voice is a sign of the times,” concludes the letter.
Social media users also weighed in and promoted the hashtag “StandAgainstTheStand.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for not hiring a Deaf actor to play a Deaf character,” tweeted one individual.
— Ansley O'Irish (@ansleyirish1024) December 17, 2020
“Deaf actors should play Deaf roles,” said another. “Representation matters. Equality matters. Equity matters. Inclusion matters. Enough is enough.”
— Brian Cheslik (@Actorboi1981) December 17, 2020
“I love you [Whoopi Goldberg], but I am joining my Deaf film and theatre colleagues in solidarity. I will not be endorsing, watching, or supporting The Stand on [CBS All Access],” commented another, mentioning actress Whoopi Goldberg, who plays the role of Mother Abagail in the miniseries.
I love you @WhoopiGoldberg, but I am joining my Deaf film and theatre colleagues in solidarity. I will not be endorsing, watching, or supporting The Stand on @CBSAllAccess. #StandAgainsttheStand pic.twitter.com/HCFJNgCK3G
— JR Nexus Russ (@AWayofLife0) December 17, 2020
Zaga’s co-star Brad William Henke defended that the actor, suggesting that the actor has approached playing the role of Nick Andros with much respect.
“You’ve never seen someone more serious, which was beautiful,” said Henke to Yahoo Entertainment. “He had two technical advisors working him all the time. He took it so seriously. He’s a really good person, and he was really sweet to me.”
Henke is also playing a character with traits that he does not have, as the actor was cast to play Tom, who is mentally handicapped.
“I would never want to take someone’s work, so I’m really conscious of that type of stuff,” said Henke of his role in the miniseries. “I think if the producers felt that they could have cast [someone else], they would have done that.”
The Stand casting is but the latest instance in which a casting is being called out.
Critics have also blasted straight actor James Corden’s portrayal of a gay character in the Netflix movie The Prom, calling the actor’s flamboyant performance “offensive,” “the worst gay-face,” and “horrifically bad.”