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Hollywood ignores those with illnesses

Thursday 6 August 2009

Hollywood signAmy Kaufman & Tina McGilton have written an article in The Wrap, an online magazine covering the behind-the-scenes industry in Hollywood.

The article profiles Geri Jewell, an actress with cerebral palsy, and Mike Hastings, an actor with Fibromyalgia. It highlights the difficulties they both have within the industry:

Hollywood is usually the first to embrace the do-gooder cause of the moment, with the elite often sporting colored ribbons to indicate their solidarity with those affected by diseases like AIDS, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.

But actors who suffer from the diseases say that when out of the spotlight, the industry tends to ignore those with disabilities and chronic illnesses, leaving many actors and crew members fighting to get work.

"The only time I get sent out is if they're specifically looking for people with a disability, and that's absurd," said "Deadwood" actress Geri Jewell, who has cerebral palsy. "The minute a show ends, I'm at square one again."

Hardest hit are the lower-level performers who privately fade from sight. (When A-listers get sick -- see accompanying story.) It's the type of discrimination Mike Hastings knows well.

Hastings suffers from fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes chronic muscle and connective tissue pain.

After securing bit parts in films like "Freaky Friday" and the TV show "Friends," Hastings landed his biggest gig to date: a job on season 4 of "The West Wing" as a military figure who appeared regularly in the show's situation room and White House scenes.

"I felt the illness was controlling so much of my life, and I needed to start functioning in society and focus on something other than what I was feeling physically. It pulled me out of myself," Hastings told The Wrap.

The article originally appeared here.



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