Isaac Hempstead Wright discusses the under-representation of disabled actors & the end of GoT

Bran

GQ Style Magazine will be featuring Isaac Hempstead Wright on the cover of their Spring/Summer 2017 issue. The magazine released a short but sweet preview of his interview in which he discusses his initial approach to playing Bran and, of course, the inevitable conclusion of Game of Thrones.

In the brief preview, Hempstead Wright addressed the delicate politics of playing a paralyzed character as an able-bodied actor. “I was ten [when I got the part],” he admitted, “So the last thing I was thinking was, ‘How am I going to act this and what is it like?’ I just… didn’t move my legs… there’s so much under-representation of disabled actors in the media. I’m aware it’s slightly grey territory … and I know I’m lucky to be able to get up at the end of a take.”

When asked how the impending end of Game of Thrones feels, Hempstead Wright answered bluntly: “terrifying.”

“It’s going to have been pretty much half my life when it’s finished. It’s going to be so bizarre, like leaving school all over again. It’s kind of a bittersweet thing because it’s such a tight-knit family… and it’s also, you know, the end of gainful employment.’”

You can read the full interview in the latest issue of GQ Style Magazine, available here.

52 responses

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    1. Well that outfit is…interesting. lol

      Not quite a Canadian tuxedo. In honor of the show maybe we can call it an Irish Tuxedo or a Croatian Tuxedo.

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    2. I’m always shocked by how much he’s grown. I hope he has a good career if he decides to pursue acting. He seems really nice.

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    3. A) that shirt is interesting to put it mildly
      And b) bran’s eyes are brown. I never noticed until tonight. In the books cat always called Jon’s brown eyes as “those strangers eyes” yet theres bran. Not really important, but something I just noticed.

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    4. Not sure about the outfit but his still a cutie, Issac I noticed compared to the other Stark actors doesn’t really seem to get as much attention. So hopefully he enjoyed his photoshoot.

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    5. KG,

      Yeah, i think its nice that he was sensitive about the question and didnt get defensive. However he really has nothing to apologize or feel bad for. its not a grey area in my opinion, he did nothing wrong.

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    6. I’m glad to see Isaac getting some attention and he is looking cute/handsome. finally the awkward teenager/puberty face is leaving him. 🙂

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    7. I bet Isaac read a recent overripe thread here. Im losing all sympathy for those who bitterly complain that a fictional work doesn’t do them enough “justice”. They obviously can’t write their way out of a paper bag, let alone create a beloved work of art on their own.

      If you don’t see creative output you want/”need” to see, CREATE IT.

      Don’t bitch to me about Sansa, lily-white casts or a teenager’s burden to NOT become the detached post-human tree god a fantasy novelist wrote his role as!

      Best part were the snowflake armies claiming the cruelty on GOT is far worse than real life…such ignorance of real world horror!

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    8. Representation of disabled actors is an important issue, though it’s certainly not on a ten-year-old to handle such things; it would be the responsibility of the people making the show. But with Bran there’s a particular issue in that he actually becomes disabled in the course of the narrative, so you need the actor to be able to walk for the first episode. In a lot of other media, conversely, there’s no such imperative.

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    9. Sean C.:
      But with Bran there’s a particular issue in that he actually becomes disabled in the course of the narrative, so you need the actor to be able to walk for the first episode.In a lot of other media, conversely, there’s no such imperative.

      This is what I was going to say. Obviously, it’s on the casting director to be inclusive in the first place, not the actors, but this wasn’t a role where the character was disabled from the start. He also walks and climbs in his dreams. The actor needs to be able to actually do that.

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    10. There are practical considerations to make too. Movie sets can be quite challenging to navigate for disabled people and may make things more difficult.

      For instance, I imagine it’s no walk in the park to have deaf or blind people on a set and have them follow exact ques, guidelines and direction, especially if you’re on a tight schedule with a limited budget.

      I would understand the decision to simply hire someone to fake being blind or deaf, purely out of convenience.

      There’s a reason they hired a healthy Dustin Hoffman to portray Raymond in Rain Man instead of an actual autistic person.

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    11. King in the Southwest: For instance, I imagine it’s no walk in the park to have deaf or blind people on a set and have them follow exact ques, guidelines and direction, especially if you’re on a tight schedule with a limited budget.

      I would understand the decision to simply hire someone to fake being blind or deaf, purely out of convenience.

      Peter Vaughan, who played Aemon Targaryen, was actually blind and he did an excellent work.

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    12. A Dornish Tyrell: Peter Vaughan, who played Aemon Targaryen, was actually blind and he did an excellent work.

      And Joseph Mawle is deaf, while Benjen is not. He was simply the best candidate for the role.

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    13. King in the Southwest,

      That sort of reasoning I do not think is acceptable; that same logic would effectively justify excluding disabled people from any workplace. If a film is going to portray disabled characters (and, as most do, accept laurels for portraying disability), it should be willing to accommodate actual disabled people. There are disabled actors, after all, and they don’t hold up the show; Marlee Matlin won an Oscar, to cite just one instance.

      There are certainly, as I said, some disabled roles where hiring a disabled actor may not be practical due to the nature of the role (particularly when it involves before/after disability contrast, as with Bran or, e.g., Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything). But if the role is just an ordinary blind dude, there is no excuse not to hire an actual blind man.

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    14. Sean C.,

      Most disabled individuals are excused from work. You can’t hire people when they’re not legally available to perform labor. When they’re included in movies, they are only allowed to work under the strictest of conditions, much like child actors.

      People suffering from mild disabilities are often the ones being discriminated against.

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    15. King in the Southwest,

      There’s no issue of being “excused” from work if you want to work. There are disabled actors. There are whole theatre companies for the deaf, to cite just one instance. ABC’s new sitcom Speechless has Micah Fowler, a young actor with cerebral palsy (and who is as a result in a wheelchair and, in the show, nonverbal), in a lead role.

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    16. Sean C.,

      There’s no issue of being “excused” from work if you want to work.

      I’d say there are many issues. Safety concerns, moral considerations, practicality… .

      Disabled people are excused from most types of work not only to ensure their own safety, but also the safety of others. I don’t see the issue with this. Not taking their disability into account would be the mistake.

      Being allowed to appear in film is an exception, not a rule. Strict guidelines are in place and if it’s too much effort to accommodate to these guidelines, I wouldn’t blame them for considering more practical options.

      At no point have I stated that they shouldn’t hire disabled actors, I merely said I don’t think it’s unreasonable when they don’t.

      Sean C.,

      That same logic would effectively justify excluding disabled people from any workplace.

      And that same logic would justify excluding children from any workplace. Are children being discriminated against because they’re not allowed to work? There’s nothing wrong with that logic. It is justified to exclude them in most cases

      There aren’t that many jobs available for disabled individuals that don’t jeopardise safe working conditions. And that’s assuming they’re qualified or interested in these jobs, reducing the pool of opportunity even further. This isn’t discrimination, it’s reality. You can’t always work around the disability, nor should you. While I’m sure that with enough modifications, a blind man could operate a forklift, in reality no one wants a blind man operating a forklift or going through the effort of installing the necessary modifications to allow him to do so.

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    17. King in the Southwest:
      There aren’t that many jobs available for disabled individuals that don’t jeopardise safe working conditions.

      Um, no. That’s totally wrong.

      I’m not sure what you have in mind when you say “disabled”, but there is no reason a person in a wheelchair or with a hearing impairment or cerebral palsy constitutes a huge workplace hazard for a TV show or film. Which is why all of those types of people do find employment as actors, as I noted, just not very frequently, when the vast majority of the roles that do exist for disabled people are played by ablebodied actors. That’s why actual disabled people are lobbying for more opportunities for disabled actors in media, both in terms of actually getting to play the roles that already exist, and there being more such roles in general, given that there are quite a few disabled people in society.

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    18. Sean C.,

      I’ve already said that mild to moderate disabilities (partial loss of senses, loss of leg below the knee, low levels of autism or diminished brain functions, mild back/spinal injuries, …) are a different category entirely. None of these make work impossible. Difficult, maybe, but not impossible.

      I’ve already said these people are often discriminated against.

      People with complete loss of one or multiple senses/limbs, more severe physical or mental conditions are what I’ve been referring to when I’ve mentioned disabled people.

      Maybe I could’ve been clearer, but the law makes a distinction between being disabled and having a minor disabilities.

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    19. King in the Southwest:

      There aren’t that many jobs available for disabled individuals that don’t jeopardise safe working conditions. And that’s assuming they’re qualified or interested in these jobs, reducing the pool of opportunity even further. This isn’t discrimination, it’s reality.

      My employer and thousands of their employees across the country would disagree with your assessment. Thank God. I am baffled by some of what you’re saying. People with disabilities make up a substantial portion of the workforce, and accommodating their needs is not considered a burden.

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    20. King in the Southwest,

      Your initial comment referred to deaf and blind people. Particularly in the case of deaf people, there are plenty of examples of deaf actors working on a program without difficulty.

      Most people with disabilities are not so disabled as to be incapable of doing anything. If not for the fact that he has to be shown walking in the first episode, for instance, there’s no reason a paraplegic could not have played Bran.

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    21. I was so happy when I watched Christopher Reeve, already quadriplegic, starring in the remake of Rear Window. He really was Superman!

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    22. Pigeon,

      I said job opportunities are limited, not non-existent.

      As a group, they have a variety of options. As individuals, they do not.

      With specialised equipment or proper training a blind individual could do computer work, phone work, certain types of administration, teaching, lecturing, accounting or become lawyers, judges, therapists, … . So they have some options available to them.

      But can they work in construction, transportation, architecture, structural engineering, law enforcement, (most) factories, chemical plants, medicine, aviation, firefighting, electricity, plumbing, nuclear plants, painting, fashion design, interiour design, child care, nursing, truck/taxi driving, security, referee, excavation, archeology, boating, surgery, air traffic controlling, heavy equipment operating, mechanics, customs, trash collection, inspecting, sampling, dentistry, playtesting, eye care, art criticism, diving, rescue, screening, bank telling, mason, chiropraction, correction, editor, paramedics, sewing, hairdressing, libraries, photography, roofing, subways, veterinaries, web designing, cardiovascular technologies, sonography, gyneocology, epidemiology, investigating, acupunture, aerospace engineering, agriculture, rigging, mining, ride operator, anesthesiology, lifeguard(ing?), refuse collecting, quarry work, carpenting, tailoring, metal working, urology, welding, zoo keeping, bee keeping, tapering, surveying, hydrology, smithing, set design, camera operation, extraction, tile settling, glass blowing, molding, geothermics, comic books, game development, freight inspection, food preparation, laboratory technics, farm work, animal wrangler, engraving, dermatology, choreographer, continuity, tractor driving, crane operating, gauging, maintenance, moving, frame wiring, fuel cell engineering, hydroelectric plants, cartoons, locomotive firing, animation, biology, parking lot attending, pipelaying, bricklaying, steamfitting, quality control, catering, risk managment, drive switching, sawing, sculpturing, meat packing, soldering, textile knitting, cargo handling, soil analysis, astronomy, …

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    23. A Dornish Tyrell:
      Cumsprite,

      I thought he had narcissistic personality disorder.

      Maybe both? Or perhaps the personality disorder is a trait of someone low on the spectrum. Lana called him on his autism in an episode. He is crazy good at knowing how many rounds people have left for sure.

      In seriousness, a lot of adults people know who they believe are odd or eccentric actually have a touch of the autism. It comes in many flavors.

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    24. Sean C.,

      Most people with disabilities are not so disabled as to be incapable of doing anything.If not for the fact that he has to be shown walking in the first episode, for instance, there’s no reason a paraplegic could not have played Bran.

      King in the Southwest:
      There are practical considerations to make too.

      I imagine it’s no walk in the park to have deaf or blind people on a set and have them follow exact ques, guidelines and direction, especially if you’re on a tight schedule with a limited budget.

      I would understand the decision to simply hire someone to fake being blind or deaf, purely out of convenience.

      King in the Southwest,

      I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying it’s impractical.

      King in the Southwest:

      Strict guidelines are in place and if it’s too much effort to accommodate to these guidelines, I wouldn’t blame them for considering more practical options.

      At no point have I stated that they shouldn’t hire disabled actors, I merely said I don’t think it’s unreasonable when they don’t.

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    25. The actor who played Walter White’s son on Breaking Bad (and who was very good in the role) has cerebral palsy. I believe Ryan Murphy also hired disabled actors on his shows.

      Pigeon,

      Same. I’m facepalming so hard after reading those comments.

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    26. Cumsprite,

      I think narcissistic personality disorder differs from autism spectrum disorder in terms of intentionality: narcissists intentionally hurt people (or they just don’t care), while people with autism just don’t realize they are hurting others…

      The way Archer treats Woodhouse indicates he clearly has narcissistic personality disorder…

      Still, can’t wait until S8!!!

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    27. King in the Southwest,

      There are practical considerations to make too. Movie sets can be quite challenging to navigate for disabled people and may make things more difficult.

      For instance, I imagine it’s no walk in the park to have deaf or blind people on a set and have them follow exact ques, guidelines and direction, especially if you’re on a tight schedule with a limited budget.

      Its this kind of comment that continues to hold back people with disabilities even now, after decades of working to make workplaces more accomodating. Sets certainly can be set up to accomodate people in wheelchairs, its been done before with little problem. As far as deaf or blind, thats where you have interpreters or mobility specialists available. If a person with disability is talented enough to be able to garner an acting role, then its the job of the producers to be able to accomodate the actor in her work.

      As far as Bran, Im glad he is thinking about the issue; tho he certainly should not feel any responsibility or concern that he was chosen to play the role. He’s done it well – I just wish the writers would add to his character the emotional states that having a disability often creatse. But its certainly is just as important to consider a actor with disabilities for a role that calls for it, as it is to use a person of color for those roles We consider it horrible that Kate Hepburn played the Chinese woman in The Good Earth it should be the same for people with disabilities

      Re Rainman – It would have been interesting if they were able to get an actor with autism but this might have been one of those times that it was unrealistc. Dustin Hoffman did an amazing amount of research for that role, and I believed his character completely (similar to Leonardo de Caprio role as a mentally handicapped teen in Gilbert Grape – amazing performance). But I think for the most part people who cast need to seriously consider using a person with disability for a role of the same. (btw I am a teacher of children with special needs; the openings for opportunities for these children have grown so much in the 40 years Ive been working. Yet sometimes it seems like there is still so much more work to do)

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    28. King in the Southwest,

      Most disabled individuals are excused from work. You can’t hire people when they’re not legally available to perform labor. When they’re included in movies, they are only allowed to work under the strictest of conditions, much like child actors.

      where are you from? If you are from the US you should know that the Amercians with disabilities act specifically requires employers to make accomodations for people with disabiities for jobs that they are able to preform. Ive never heard of this excusing from work – if they want to work, and have the capability to do so, why on earth wouldn’t they?

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    29. Mr Derp,

      there is no disagreement here – there is simply the fact that in this country at least there is no reason a person with disability cannot work if she has the capability otherwise to perform the job with accomodations. Its the law, at least in this country. No one is forcing them to do so,but to say they shouldn’t be allowed to , oh my……

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    30. BTW, what about Peter Dinklage? Martin wrote Tyrions character as a dwarf. Could anyone else have played that who did not have that particular disability? No – it would have made no sense. Just saying

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    31. ash:
      Mr Derp,

      there is no disagreement here – there is simply the fact that in this country at least there is no reason a person with disability cannot work if she has the capability otherwise to perform the job with accomodations.Its the law, at least in this country. No one is forcing them to do so,but to say they shouldn’t be allowed to , oh my……

      ash,

      I just said this topic always ends in an argument. I don’t disagree with you at all.

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    32. No worries. I do think the silence after my posting is interesting –
      – did I break the thread,or convince someone to think differently? Its an interesting conversation, looking at how people with disabilities are portrayed on film and tv, no matter who the actor is. I think we’ve come a long way from the days when a disability meant the character was a saint (see Heide) or evil (see Hunchback of Notre Dame). Certainly characters with disabilities are much more nuanced now but stereotypes still persist. Its nice when you can have a character whose disability does not define them. Remember Ironsides? Loved that program, and often forgot that he couldn’t walk. We need more like that (tho to be fair I was a kid watching it; be interesting to watch it now with adult eyes)

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    33. I don’t think you broke the thread or anything like that. I think it was already on it’s last legs.

      I love coming to this site to talk about Game of Thrones and what is happening on the show itself. I personally don’t enjoy coming here to discuss politics or any particularly serious topics. There’s always someone who takes things too seriously or has a very rigid point of view and starts an argument instead of discussing things in a civil manner and understanding that there are many different points of view out there that may not align with their own. I’ve tried before, but too many people carry on conversations as though their point of view is the only one that matters. I find it’s a waste of energy and time.

      I’m all about talking up GoT though 🙂

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    34. ash,

      You didn’t break anything, I have a life outside of the internet.

      Pretty much all I intended was “I understand that hiring disabled individuals may not always be convenient and that it’s sometimes easier or safer not to”

      But I pretty much got the feeling you all thought I meant “disabled people should be discriminated against and excluded from work at all times”

      Case in point:

      ash:

      No one is forcing them to do so,but to say they shouldn’t be allowed to , oh my……

      Find me the part where I said that.

      I said there were strict guidelines, which there are.
      I said they’re excused from work, meaning they don’t have to, which they don’t.
      I said it poses several difficulties, which it does.

      Yes, they should be respected AND helped out AND be able to work if they want and if they’re able to, but that doesn’t change the fact that they ARE disabled. It’s a reality. There are many things they won’t be able to do.

      But I must concede that when it comes to big productions, they probably should make more of an effort to include them. I realised how much pampering regular actors tend to enjoy, so going an extra mile to include a disabled actor shouldn’t be so much of a hassle. So there’s that.

      Mr Derp:

      There’s always someone who takes things too seriously or has a very rigid point of view and starts an argument instead of discussing things in a civil manner and understanding that there are many different points of view out there that may not align with their own.

      Was I ever anything less than civil? And how did you conclude that I don’t understand the concept of different viewpoints? Disagreeing doesn’t equate to a lack of understanding of how opinions work. And why do you lie responsability for this argument solely at the feet of the one you disagree with when all involved parties clearly take things too seriously and ridgidly hold to their own stance?

      Anyway, won’t get dragged into an argument here again. You’re right, it’s a fan site and it should stay that way. That being said, I’ve seen bigger discussions on this site. Remember the Sansa rape scene?

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    35. King in the Southwest: how did you conclude that I don’t understand the concept of different viewpoints?

      King in the Southwest,

      Better question…How did you conclude that I was even talking about you at all?

      King in the Southwest: And why do you lie responsability for this argument solely at the feet of the one you disagree with when all involved parties clearly take things too seriously and ridgidly hold to their own stance?

      King in the Southwest,

      This is nothing more than a random assumption on your part. I didn’t place any responsibility on anyone for anything.

      I understand that you were the only one taking a particular side and sometimes it can feel like you’re being ganged up on, but I had nothing to do with that. I have no idea why you assumed I was talking about you, but I wasn’t. I don’t think we’ve ever even spoken to each other before, but what I said is true. Having serious, adult conversations is almost impossible nowadays because it usually devolves into an “I’m right and you’re an asshole” argument. This applies to MANY people on BOTH sides of any discussion, so again, why you thought I was singling you out is beyond me.

      Anyway, back to discussing the show…

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