Outside of RJ Mitte, who played Walt Jr. on Breaking Bad, there are very few actors with disabilities who get the chance to tell their own stories on television. Actress and comedian Maysoon Zayid, who like Mitte was born with cerebral palsy, discusses her disability in this Big Think interview while also stressing the importance of positive media portrayals of people with disabilities. "When you do see disability on television," she says, "we're reduced to two storylines. Either 'heal me' or 'you can't love me because I'm disabled.'" Zayid hopes someday soon television will make a stronger commitment to actors with disabilities.
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Maysoon Zayid: I have cerebral palsy, which is a neurological disorder, also it's a traumatic brain injury that happens either in utero, during the birthing process or within the first couple of months of life. So a 26-year-old can't get cerebral palsy. It's not genetic. You can't catch it. Even though I have seen people become a bit more spilly around me it's not contagious I promise. My cerebral palsy happened during birth. The doctor who delivered me was drunk and I came out fist first ready to fight the power and he panicked and cut my mom six different times in six different directions. And as a result I lost oxygen. That loss of oxygen damaged the part of my brain that handles coordination. And as a result I shake all the time.
Now, it's really important to remember cerebral palsy is a spectrum so different people with CP have different symptoms, they have different abilities. Some people use wheelchairs; some people are mobile; some are verbal, some are nonverbal. That doesn't mean that we're intellectually superior in anyway to our counterparts who have less or more ability, but cerebral palsy can also happen alongside other disabilities. So there are people with CP and mental illness, there are people with CP and respiratory problems and there are people like me who just have CP. And I work really hard to keep my health up. And I think that having a disability is often thought of as like this poor person and she's always struggling. And I don't really think of my CP that way. I think of it as part of me. It doesn't define me. There are days where I hate it and there are days where I don't even think about it. [transcript truncated]
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton
Tagged under: Maysoon Zayid (Film Actor),disability,comedy,theatre,performance,holywood,oscar,actor,actress,rj mitte,breaking bad,advocate,Cerebral Palsy (Disease Or Medical Condition),health,wellness,big ,bigthink,bightink.,educational,lifelong learning,coach,mentor,lesson
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