Actor Bryan Cranston has come under fire for portraying a disabled character in his latest film The Upside. The star, famous for playing Walter White in TV series Breaking Bad, has defended his role as a millionaire quadriplegic as a “business decision”.
“As actors we’re asked to…play other people. If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?”
While Cranston said that he was aware of the need to expand opportunities for people with disabilities and some have made reference to his work alongside RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, as his character’s son in Breaking Bad, he has been subject to criticism from many who felt that his role in The Upside should have gone to a disabled actor.
Wendy Lu, writing on HuffPost, said “erasing disabled people from stories about their own communities is…unacceptable […] if more industry professionals encouraged people with disabilities to pursue acting, imagine how many more disabled actors we might see on our screens.”
The debate echoes other recent stories, including backlash over the casting of Charlie Heaton as Joseph Merrick in a BBC adaption of the Elephant Man and the declaration of actor Darren Criss that, as a straight man, he will no longer accept LGBT scripts.
‘The Upside’, starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman, is released on January 11.