Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hollyoaks' Peter Mitchell criticises TV shows such as Glee for casting able-bodied actors as disabled characters

From The Sun in the UK:

Hollyoaks' Peter Mitchell (pictured) has criticised shows such as Glee for casting able-bodied actors as disabled characters.

The actor, who lost the use of his legs in a car crash when he was 18, said audiences know if someone is faking it.

In US hit Glee, wheelchair user Artie Abrams is played by able-bodied actor Kevin McHale.

But Peter, 27, said: "I've never watched Glee but it's a touchy subject.

"If a director is casting a wheelchair user at least give real wheelchair users a chance.

"Most auditions I get state they are for wheelchair users preferably. If a casting director feels strongly enough, give us an opportunity.

"I'm sure there are a lot of people in wheelchairs who would love to act but don't know how to get into it.

"It's more real life, you can't cheat it. If you see someone pretending to have a disability people know it's an act."

Peter - who is best known for playing teacher Pete Hamill in the Channel 4 soap and also featured in Cast Offs - is enjoying his success and recently went to an awards bash in Manchester with show pal Stephanie Davis, who plays Sinead O'Connor.

But he added: "There are very few wheelchair actors out there. Disabled people are very unrepresented on TV.

"I'd like to play a romantic lead. I want to break boundaries. There's no people on TV in a wheelchair in a relationship, you don't see that.

"That's not a reflection of life. I've got a girlfriend and there are a lot of married men out there in wheelchairs. That's a wall I want to break down."

Peter admitted he thought his love life was over when he was paralysed in the devastating crash in 2002.

He explained: "I definitely thought girls wouldn't be interested any more.

"I was in a relationship at the time of the accident and I thought 'there's no way she's going to stay with me because I'm in a wheelchair'. But she stayed with me for two years and we are still friends.

"I was 20 and pleasantly surprised that I still had female attention. It's not as big an obstacle as I thought. I'm very fortunate that I've been with my amazing girlfriend Brenda for two years." And the former Leeds United footballer said his accident got him into acting.

Peter, who is about to star in new Channel 4 comedy Rick and Peter with Rick Edwards, said: "When I had my accident I lost my hunger for football and I never thought I'd get that back.

"I was never interested in acting before but seven years after the crash I heard about Cast Offs and went for it.

"I thought it would be a one off but now, to be on Hollyoaks and to be working with Rick, it's a dream come true." He added: "They say everything happens for a reason, so maybe this was my destiny.

"Maybe I was supposed to get in that car and end up in a wheelchair and be an actor.

"Maybe I'll have more influence on people this way than if I was a footballer. Hopefully I can show that just because I'm in a wheelchair I'm no different to anybody else.

"On Twitter I get messages saying, 'I'm in a wheelchair and you inspire me'. That's what it's all about."