This is Casey

A graduate from Humber College’s Television and Broadcasting program, 23-year-old MacKay is now pursuing a career in sports broadcasting with the CBC.

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This is Casey MacKay and this is what a broadcaster looks like.

A graduate from Humber College’s Television and Broadcasting program, 23-year-old MacKay is now pursuing a career in sports broadcasting working as a program assistant with the CBC. It’s a position he thoroughly enjoys, as he spends his days creating shot lists and clipping videos.

“I’ve never been somewhere where they’ve been so friendly and patient and welcoming,” he says.

“I think whenever companies see a person with a disability and see their skillset rather than their physical limitations that is a big thing.”

And while MacKay has spent years consuming the media, if you asked him about the representation of the disability community he agrees more work needs to be done.

“I did not see enough people on TV or on the news—and I still don’t see enough people—with disabilities being represented as much as they should be,” says MacKay.

“I’d like to see hosts being represented and actors, in movies, with disabilities. I’d like to see disability being talked about more. And I think if all that were to be done it would be a real eye-opener, not only for my generation but for any generation to come.”

Signed, Mann Casting

Mann Casting has been around for 11 years and for this progressive agency, diverse casting is top of mind. That and accessibility.

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For this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, Mann Casting was asked to assist with the video creative.

The agency has been around for 11 years and is a progressive when it comes to ensuring diverse casting.

“In casting everybody sort of talks about representation of how diverse Canada is, so why wouldn’t we include [disability]?” says Steven Mann, the president and director behind the company.

“There are so many different people, so I think we should reflect who we are in advertising especially.”

For Mann, if it wasn’t specifically required, he rarely would have actors with disabilities come to casting sessions. His casting associate, Sarah Sheps—who has ten years of casting experience—agrees. For the team, most casting requests involving actors with disabilities were primarily for public service announcements.

In order to become a part of the change, Mann and his team focused on accessibility when picking their newest location. They wanted one that can be easily accessed by anyone and everyone—even with a wheelchair.

“If [people with disabilities] want to be actors there’s no reason that they shouldn’t. They should have the same opportunities as everybody else. Everyone should get an opportunity to do what makes them happy,” says Sheps.

“We just need to make sure we had everything set up for success, so accessibility was really top priority.”

A Day in the Life of Tai!

See what an audition day looks like for 15-year-old Tai, an undeniable triple threat in singing, acting, and dancing.

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What does an audition day look like?

Have you ever auditioned for a role in a commercial or show? Have you ever dealt with first-audition jitters and trying to figure out the casting director’s facial expressions?

Unsurprisingly 15-year-old Tai is no rookie to auditioning. But while he’s undeniably a triple-threat—he’s a musical theatre star with a passion for singing, acting, and dancing—Tai faces a couple more challenges beyond line memorization and edging out the competition.

Follow along as he takes us through his day at one of his recent auditions and the things he and other actors with disabilities have to think about when it comes to the physical casting space and location.

8:00 a.m. – Today is audition day! I’ll be trying out for a role in a commercial. Just woke up (after my alarm went off, and my mom had to wake me twice) and I think I’ll wear my blue shirt since they told me to wear bright colours and no logos. Time to shower and I need to remember to comb my hair.

8:45 a.m. – Mom is driving me to the audition today. We stop by a Tim Horton’s first for a bagel and an Iced Capp because we haven’t had time to eat yet. I’m starving!

10:00 a.m. – Just got to the casting house downtown, which is very far from our place! I see a ramp up to the sidewalk but there appears to be one stair leading to the door. This should be fun…

10:05 a.m. – Okay, it was easy enough but still a little frustrating for me to get inside. I bumped up a stair or two, but it wouldn’t be so easy for some of my friends if they were here…

10:07 a.m. – It looks like the shoot is on the fourth floor. Great, the elevator works! I make it to the audition location and make it inside the casting lobby. I sign-in and wait my turn.

The room is filled mostly with kids, who look around my age, without disabilities. I’m super excited to audition for this role. I hope I get it!

Oh, look, it’s one of my friends! Let me go over and say hi. Usually we get called to the same auditions when they’re looking for someone with a disability.

10:15 a.m. – The assistant calls me in. There are three people in the room: two are sitting at the table and one is standing by the camera. They ask me to laugh, to look sad, and to look happy. They barely look at me, so I don’t know what to think about that…

10:30 a.m. – I am done. I’m out of the room and back in the lobby. I feel really good about my audition. Now it is the time to wait…

Sometimes I hear back, but most times I don’t hear anything unless I get the job. I didn’t get the job for that audition.

That was one of the first auditions my agent has sent me in more than two years. It’s always difficult getting an audition unless brands and storylines specifically ask for a kid in a wheelchair.

Mostly, my acting and modeling opportunities come from Holland Bloorview and other similar agencies.

I would really love to get a job on a TV show.

I know I can play the teenaged-male character. I am a teenager after all.

Until next time…

Signed, Vapor Music

While she has almost two decades worth of industry experience, when you ask Karen Goora, the Creative Director at Vapor Music, how often she sees actors with disabilities at casting sessions, she replies with “Hardly ever, actually never.”

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While she has almost two decades worth of industry experience, when you ask Karen Goora how often she sees actors with disabilities at casting sessions, she replies with “Hardly ever, actually never.”

“In order for me to have access to kids with disabilities and to give them opportunities they rightly deserve and are capable of doing, I think that agents have to start representing kids with disabilities and not see them as disabled,” she says.

“[A kid with a disability] can act, can be a cartoon character, can be a commercial voiceover, can be a spokesperson.”

As the Creative Director at Vapor Music, Goora is all too familiar with the audio world and that’s why she loaned her experience to this year’s Dear Everybody campaign.

Along with her team, Goora helped produce the audio for Dear Everybody’s spot piece, offering up the studio space, recording session, direction, and edits to the best takes.

“I think it’s really important that opportunities exist for all kids. Kids with disabilities should be included in creative endeavours, whether that’s in front of the camera or in front of the microphone,” she says.

“Everybody’s creative and can act and provide an interesting voice to a campaign.”

Signed, Forsman & Bodenfors

For this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, Matt Hassell, the Chief Creative Officer at Forsman & Bodenfors, made sure to root the narrative in two things: starting a conversation and actually seeing results.

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For this year’s Dear Everybody campaign, Matt Hassell made sure to root the narrative in two things: starting a conversation and actually seeing results.

“I’m hoping that the industry will take notice of the lack of people with disabilities in advertising,” he says. With almost two decades worth of advertising experience, Hassell has seen the industry change, embracing inclusion and diversity.

But he knows more work still needs to be done.

“If you have somebody with a visible disability in advertising it becomes newsworthy, and our feeling is it should not be newsworthy. We want people to get used to the idea of seeing it because they see that in everyday life and they should be seeing [disability] represented in their advertising.”

Hassell is the Chief Creative Officer at Forsman & Bodenfors, the agency responsible for creating this year’s campaign with Holland Bloorview.

As part of their strategy, Hassell’s team also came up with the Dear Everybody Agreement.

The Agreement is divided into two parts with one part asking brands to start casting people with disabilities and the other asking members of the public to start supporting brands who do.

Forsman & Bodenfors were one of the first agencies to sign.

“We wanted to give everybody the opportunity to agree to help. It isn’t necessarily about the most perfect ad campaign, it really is about having a whole industry get on side,” says Hassell.

“It’s an agreement between all of us, because all of us together are going to change the industry.”

This is Tai

From the moment 15-year-old Tai sang along to Alicia Keys in the car as a child, he knew he wanted to perform. And he’s on his way to doing just that, professionally.

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From the moment 15-year-old Tai sang along to Alicia Keys in the car as a child, he knew he wanted to perform. And he’s on his way to doing just that, professionally.

As a student in the Arts Unionville high school program, he’s training to bring his dreams of singing on Broadway to life—either as Evan Hansen, or Damian from Mean Girls. And while he’s already acted in commercials and productions through his musical theatre group, to-date, one of Tai’s favourite performances was playing Ren in Footloose.

“It was not something you’d expect, considering I do use a wheelchair and he’s a break dancer but, we made it work.”

The joy of playing different characters is one reason Tai is pursuing an acting career. Another reason is to advocate for accurate representation of disability in the media, something that Tai feels is lacking.

“When [a person with a disability does get] cast, most of those roles are the sick person in the wheelchair that needs help. It’s often not a character that’s just living their life,” he says.

“It puts the false image of people with disabilities having to go through all of the struggles that you see on TV, when really I don’t really get socially affected by my disability. But the media will always show that [storyline].”

This is Wesley

Alternating between Machiavellian characters on stage and Kyle on Netflix’s Ponysitters Club has been nothing short of fun and satisfying.

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For 19-year-old Wesley, alternating between Machiavellian characters on stage and Kyle on Netflix’s Ponysitters Club has been nothing short of fun and satisfying. Currently a student in York University’s theatre program and acting conservatory, Wesley is learning all the acting techniques he can on his journey to becoming a seasoned professional.

One who’ll ultimately land a major role in the Marvel or Star Wars franchises.

But, not because of the potential fame or fortune.

“If I was to become a Marvel superhero then kids growing up would have the kind of representation I needed when I was younger.”

Wesley—who has cerebral palsy and gets around with his wheelchair and his service dog, Cameo—didn’t see characters like himself on the screen. That’s why advocating for the representation of disability in the media is a huge reason he’s pursuing this career.

“I see a lot of people with disabilities second guessing themselves and not pursuing what they want because they don’t realize they have the potential to do that,” he says.

“So I’m hoping that through my work and fully embracing what I can do, I’m allowing folks to take control of their own lives and pursue their own dreams.”

This is Sheriauna

If you were to describe 12-year-old Sheriauna, triple-threat is the first thing that comes to mind.

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If you were to describe 12-year-old Sheriauna, triple-threat is the first thing that comes to mind. Unstoppable is second.

With hobbies consisting of dance classes, listening to music, or drawing, it’s no surprise Sheriauna is always on the go. For this passionate pre-teen, anything creative or artistic makes up most of her time, with a huge focus on following her three passions: dancing, singing, and acting.

She’s only recently started her acting career but has already starred in three commercials. She can’t wait to be in more.

And while her end goal is to one day make it onto a TV show or a film, she’s still open to singing in a musical or dancing on a stage. It’s unsurprising that Sheriauna is up for any and all challenges.

One challenge she’s up to facing?

Bringing more acceptance and representation of people with disabilities in TV shows, film, and especially commercials.

“If [people with disabilities] are in a commercial it’s in a commercial for people with limb differences, for example. It’s not a soap commercial or a car commercial or anything regular like that,” she says. For her, it’s time casting directors and brands stopped focusing on cookie cutter images of who can and can’t play a role.  

“If that person is right for that role, like their personality, then they should be able to play that part.”