Former “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston is being forced to defend his decision to play a severely disabled man in the upcoming film, “The Upside,” after social justice warriors criticized both Cranston and the studio for not casting a true quadriplegic for the role.
The BBC reports that Cranston is speaking out, defending not just his “business decision” to star alongside Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman in the dramatic comedy premiering this month, but also defending his right as an actor to take roles that force him to leave his comfort zone and adopt a new persona.
“We live in the world of criticism, if we’re willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism,” Cranston said. “We’re very aware of the need to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities.”
“As actors we’re asked to play other people,” Cranston told media. “If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?”
“I don’t know, where does the restriction apply, where is the line for that?” Cranston added, in an interview with the Press Association.
To appease his critics, Cranston did eventually say that he believes there should be more parts available for disabled actors.
The movie, which is a remake of a 2011 French film called “Les Intouchables,” stars Cranston as a wealthy man paralyzed from the neck down, and Kevin Hart as an ex-convict hired to care for Cranston’s character around the clock, but who eventually teaches Cranston’s character to enjoy life, despite his hardships (at least, that’s the plot of the original movie).
But the Ruderman Family Foundation, which advocates on behalf of disabled Americans, was quick to point out that Cranston took a role that could have gone to an actor actually suffering from near-complete paralysis. Taking a page from previous campaigns against white actors playing people of color, the Foundation suggested that Cranston’s casting was “discrimination.”
Others — primarily social justice advocates — compared Cranston’s portrayal of a quadriplegic man to “blackface.” A critic on social media even compared Cranston’s newest acting role to President Donald Trump’s alleged mockery of a disabled reporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign — a heavy and stinging critique for the Hollywood left.
All this is happening against a backdrop of a supposed woken culture. Actors like Meryl Streep criticising Donald Trump for impersonating a disabled journalist – I’m force to ask how is what @BryanCranston is doing here any better? 5/x https://t.co/gNI7PlTSkr
— Adam Pearson (@Adam_Pearson) January 8, 2019
The film’s director, Neil Burger, also defended casting Cranston in the role, saying he made every effort to be as sensitive as possible to those who might identify with the film’s lead character.
“It is a really interesting question, does an able-bodied actor have the right to play a person with a disability? And there’s arguments on both sides of it,” Burger told the Press Association in his own interview. “All I know is that we did an incredible amount of research and went at it with as much respect and honesty that we could – and certainly Bryan Cranston did – and our goal is to shed light and be compassionate and be respectful to those communities.”
It will, of course, never appease social justice warriors.