Disabled actors on prime-time TV? No wonder I cried at Silent Witness
While watching Silent Witness … it struck me that I’m old enough to remember Ironside, the crime fighter in a wheelchair, on TV in the 60s and 70s. As a disabled kid, I loved his van – I wanted that van. I never once thought about whether the actor Raymond Burr was disabled. Which he wasn’t, of course. The first time I saw a disabled actor – an actual disabled person – playing a role was probably Sandy in the British TV soap Crossroads (also when I was young). Yet it remains a rarity, all these decades later, to see a disabled actor on TV, especially in a powerful role. So to have three disabled actors on prime time … in a long-running BBC drama such as Silent Witness, is a cause for celebration – and reflection.
This trio of disabled acting talent was headed by Liz Carr, her five-year role as sharp-witted forensic scientist Clarissa Mullery amplified in a storyline about the abuse in a care home of disabled residents Kevin (Toby Sams-Friedman) and Serena (Rosie Jones). But I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact the story had on me. At the point where Clarissa said “I’m terrified of being abandoned”, I could hardly breathe.