- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Able-bodied actor Bryan Cranston on Tuesday decried the lack of acting opportunities for disabled people in Hollywood but ultimately defended his role as a quadriplegic billionaire in the upcoming film “The Upside” as a “business decision” that he has the right to make as an actor.

“I think being cast in this role as a quadriplegic really came down to a business decision,” the former “Breaking Bad” star told Sky News. “We live in the world of criticism, if we’re willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism.

“As actors, we’re asked to be other people, to play other people” Mr. Cranston asked. “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? I don’t know, where does the restriction apply, where is the line for that? I think it is worthy for debate to discuss those issues.”

Kevin Hart, Mr. Cranston’s co-star in “The Upside” who recently pulled out of hosting the Oscars amid backlash over past homophobic tweets, said the film’s producers were looking for “box office success” by casting well-known actors. He also said Mr. Cranston’s role offers a fresh perspective for how disabled people navigate life and suggested that his own role in the film as a poor, black ex-con offers the opportunity for debate about white privilege.

“You have the ‘white privileged male’ going through one of the roughest moments of his life that people can’t even imagine how or what it’s like to go through what he’s going through,” Mr. Hart told Yahoo Movies UK. “On my side, he’s been incarcerated, now on probation and not been able to get an opportunity and feel like the world is against me.

“There are unique ways to address the conversation from a cinematic point of view so why not take up the opportunity?” he asked. “Especially if we’re going to do from the perspective of looking at ‘the upside.’”

Mr. Cranston recently came under fire by members of the disabled community after news spread that he would be cast as a quadriplegic — similar to the backlash Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson faced after he played an amputee in the movie “Skyscraper.” The criticism, which has also been lodged against non-gay actors who fill gay roles and white actors for filling non-white roles, is part of a larger conversation about the lack of diversity in Hollywood.

Mr. Cranston said he spent hours with several quadriplegics to prepare for his role in order to “feel like I’m doing this justice.”

“I think it points out the lack of diversity in disabled actors and the lack of opportunity in order to be even considered to play the lead role in a film like this,” he told Yahoo. “Are there any actors who have reached any kind of star status to be able to be considered? I think by not coming up with an answer to that is the answer to that. There is a dearth of opportunity for actors with a disability.”

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