Award-winning ITV soap Emmerdale recently cast a disabled actor in a pivotal role, placing him at the forefront of a major, developing storyline. Newcomer, 25-year-old James Moore from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire has cerebral palsy. His debut as Ryan Stocks, the long-lost son of Charity Dingle, has been met with universal praise and applause.
Our writer Carrie Aimes interviewed him about his career, disability on TV and film, making disability ‘normal’ and his opinions on able-bodied actors playing a disabled character.
In his first scene, James instantly endeared viewers with glimpses of his multi-dimensional character and an attitude to match his on-screen mother’s. Some even say there is a convincing physical resemblance between the two.
Engaging opening scenes indicate that Ryan is set to be a strong presence; witty, outspoken and unfiltered. Furthermore, his connection with the prominent Dingle family suggests that he is not destined to become a background, token disabled character. On the contrary, Ryan Stocks will be a regular and crucial feature in future episodes.
Like many avid Emmerdale viewers, I was anxious to see who would be revealed as Charity Dingle’s son. To see a disabled actor playing the role was unexpected. But as a disabled person myself, I am more than pleasantly surprised. The casting of disabled actor James Moore is an exciting, encouraging and essential step forward in the inclusion and representation of disability within the media.
Could you please tell Disability Horizons readers about yourself?
So firstly, I have cerebral palsy (CP), but it’s Ataxic CP, which basically means that I struggle with movement and co-ordination. I find it difficult to walk long distances and there are certain things I know I can’t do, but I’ve adapted to these challenges in my day-to-day life.
I got into acting because, even from a young age, I’ve always been interested in film and the theatre. It wasn’t easy, and I didn’t know whether I would be able to make a career and earn a living from it. It’s hard for anyone, but when I was growing up, there weren’t many disabled people being represented on film or television.
As an actor with a disability, how does this lack of representation make you feel?
I think societies’ attitude to non-disabled actors playing disabled characters is too lenient. I mean, we wouldn’t let someone white use black make up to play a black person. It would be deemed unacceptable. So, why let able-bodied people take the roles of disabled characters?
In order to ‘normalise’ disability on screen, we first have to find disabled actors and give them opportunities, rather than taking roles away from them. I think that is the biggest and most important step.