There definitely should be more characters with long-term conditions on TV. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t already some great characters on the box. Here I give you a run down of my favourites.
10. Rem Dogg (Bad Education)
Rem Dogg first appeared on our screens in August 2012 as part of the cast of Bad Education. He is played by Jack Binstead, who I have had the pleasure of knowing for many years. Jack has brittle bone disease and does actually use a wheelchair in real life. You can follow him on Twitter: @JackBinstead. He does a lot of video logging and a lot of his content is very good.
9. Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking is possibly the most famous person with a long term condition in the world. He is also television personality and has appeared in the Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory, as a fictional version of himself.
8. Brian Potter (Phoenix Nights)
Brian Potter burst onto small screens across the UK in 2001 as the owner of the Phoenix Club in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights. Potter (Played by Kay) was a paraplegic and his impairment was often used to great comical affect.
7. Gordi La Forge (Star Trek, The Next Generation)
Play by LeVar Burton, Gordi La Forge was a main cast member of the crew on Next Generation. Although not blind himself, when Burton donned Gordi’s famous visor, he actually lost 85% of his vision. In the above video, Burton talks about the challenge of playing Gordi.
6. Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory)
Series co-creator Bill Prady has stated interview that the writers did purposely write the character to have traits of Asperger’s Syndrome or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. That being said, it is hard not see many traits of those conditions in Sheldon’s character. I have to say that what I have enjoyed about Sheldon is his development in recent seasons. His growing relationship with Amy, his change and character growth has been handled really well. His growth feels authentic, I can believe that he is still within the limitations of his character and that is really delicate balance for the writers to handle.
The top 5….
5. Izzy Armstrong (Coronation Street)
Izzy Armstrong (Played by Cherylee Huston) first appeared on Coronation Street on 16th April 2010. She was hailed as the first character with a impairment to appear on the soap in 50 years. Izzy comes in at 5 because of the story lines that she has been involved with. Her relationship with Gary and their various ups and downs have helped challenge many stereotypes about what it is like to live with a long term condition in modern times.
5. Becky Jackson (Glee)
Becky Jackson (played by Lauren Potter) is schoolgirl with the Down Sydrome appearing in Glee. The character is taken under the wing of Coach Sue Sylvester and given a lot of on screen time. A fan favourite, Jackson has been one of the hits of the show.
4. Artie (Glee)
Glee has been a a flag bearer for diversity since it began in 2009. Artie Abrams has been a main cast member since the pilot. I like a lot of the story lines that Artie has been involved with, particularly the ones that have involved his sexuality. We’ve never really seen those sorts of stories tackled in a drama series before. However, the main reason that Artie comes in at 4, is the debate that the casting of Kevin McHale has started.
in case you don’t know, the actor that plays Artie (Kevin McHale) is not actually a paraplegic. His casting has been widely criticised by many artists who have impairments. Robert David Hall of CSI fame said. “I think there’s a fear of litigation, that a person with disabilities might slow a production down, fear that viewers might be uncomfortable.”
In my opinion, McHale not having an actual impairment is not a huge issue. His portrayal is honest and the writing for his character is often strong. Glee writer Brad Falchuk has said in interview that they picked McHale for his talent. There are many actors on this list who do not have the condition that they were portraying, but that is not to the determent of their character. Nevertheless, the debate around the casting of McHale is most welcome.
3. Brandon Stark (Game of Thrones)
Game of Thrones has become the latest international sensation for HBO since the pilot aired on April 17th 2011. Bran Stark (played by Isaac Hempstead-Wright) suffers a spinal cord injury after being pushed from a tower in the opening season. However Bran has still proved pivotal to the story. His unlikely partnership with the gentle giant Hodor has continually provided some of the series best moments.
Bran comes in at 2 because I think it is important that we recognise people have suffered injuries through out history and that people living with impairments are not a phenomenon of the 21st century. Watch out for Bran having a big part to play in Game of Thrones season 5.
2. Walter Jr (Breaking Bad)
The best television series of all time? The Sopranos would have something to say about that. But Breaking Bad will definitely be regarded as one of the best ever. And at the heart of the cast was Walter Jr (played by Roy Frank Mitte III). Jr has Cerebral Palsy but is often portrayed as an active teenage kid.
Mitte, who has CP himself, often had to stay up all night to ensure that his speech was slurred enough for the role. Mitte also campaigns for more artists with impairments to be given opportunities in the industry. What a great guy!
1. Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones)
It had to be, didn’t it? The irrepressible and brilliant dwarf has been entertaining us since 2011. Tyrion is not just the greatest character with a impairment in history, he is one of the greatest antiheroes ever. Played impeccably by the sensational Peter Dinklage, Tyrion is my favourite character of the series by far.
It is not simply that Tyrion’s quick wit or politically savvy mind that endear him to so many. It is the fact that his struggle is so obvious and so is his humanity. Dinklage won a prime time Emmy in 2011 for best supporting actor. His award was not some token gesture, it was a true appreciation for a great actor in a great role. Dinklage was also great in the summer blockbuster, X Men, Days of Future’s Past, in which he played Dr. Bolivar Trask. Director Bryan Singer stated in a interview that seeing Dinklage in A Game of Thrones, inspired him to cast Dinklage as Trask. Talent it seems, will always win out in the end.
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