Hollywood is struggling in modern times to show diversity that matches its audience, whether it comes to race, gender, or ability. Now, the remake of The Stand, which is airing on CBS All Access, is under fire for casting actor Henry Zaga in the role of deaf-mute character Nick Andros, with members of the Deaf community releasing a statement in response to the move.
70 members of the Deaf community signed a statement this week calling the casting of a hearing actor in the role “not acceptable,” THR reports. Signing members include directors and actors of screen and stage among others, such as actor Antoinette Abbamonte (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and director Jules Dameron (Reverse Polarity).
“We will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access,” the letter reads. “We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the miniseries on CBS All Access with our Deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of Deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide.”
The letter states that no Deaf professional actors were contacted to audition for the role of Nick Andros on The Stand, and that “the decision was made without respect to and for Deaf professionals, union and non-union alike.”
This isn’t the first time this particular casting decision made the news. In 2019, a Deaf man named Jared Perez-DeBusk reached out to director Josh Boone on Instagram, where Boone justified the decision through the character’s speaking parts, as well as noting that actor Harry Zaga worked extensively with ASL experts and member of the Deaf community to correctly portray the character.
The character, Nick Andros, is deaf-mute character, but speaks extensively during dream sequences and plays a pivotal role in the plot. This can be a difficult situation to navigate; Netflix’s Daredevil likely could not have cast a blind man in the role of Matt Murdock due to the extensive stunt work involved in that production. But Perez-DeBusk pointed out that if Zaga worked extensively to portray a Deaf character, a Deaf actor could’ve worked to portray a hearing one. Actor Rob Lowe portrayed the character in the 1994 mini-series.
This is just the latest instance of Hollywood’s continued inability to cast characters with an eye toward diversity. Actors like Halle Berry and Jared Leto have come under fire for playing (or considering playing) transgender characters, as did Scarlett Johansson’s infamous portrayal of Japanese character Motoko Kusanagi in the Ghost in the Shell film.