I had the privilege to interview Teal Sherer, to learn how she brings conviction, visibility and voice to both her career in acting and support of disability inclusion and awareness. Originally from Lenoir City, Tennessee, Teal is an L.A. based actor, producer, and activist for performers with disabilities. Her film, TV, online and theatre work includes the Emmy Award-Winning HBO Film Warm Springs, starring Kenneth Branagh, I’m With Stupid an NBC series developed by The Farelly Brothers and on-stage performances with, among others, Dustin Hoffman. Closer to main the theme of this blog centering on advertising and disability, in 2008 Teal starred in the highly acclaimed Liberty Mutual commercial, Election.
Teal shared that the casual and conversational audition for the commercial carried over into the production and many subtle moments within the spot. Wanting to keep the commercial authentic, the production team took Teal’s lead on key aspects. With no dialogue, Teal conveys a relaxed, yet determined mindset as she moves through typical life moments along her path toward the final scene of her voting.
“It was kind of like a short film and it was really exciting to be a part of such a great message -something groundbreaking. You rarely see people with disabilities in advertising so to see someone with a disability in the lead of a commercial is nice,” says Teal. She goes on to say that “It has a cool simplicity to it. As a disabled person I’m not overcoming some big obstacle, but it shares an authentic, normal part of my day, just like any other day.”
Teal’s advocacy efforts include participation as a member of the Screen Actors Guild Performers with Disabilities Committee and the I AM PWD campaign. Recently her involvement included a panel discussion on redefining disability in the media and shared that:
“If we’re not in the media how do people know we exist? Media in whatever form – movies, TV shows, online series and advertising can open your eyes to disability, but a lot of people don’t think about including disability and it is left out of discussions of diversity and minorities. Shows may be ethnically diverse but I think a lot of time disability gets left out. Media affects society more than anything else. It is our gateway to other people and situations and circumstances and disability needs to be a part of it.”
“People may think that it will be a hassle to accommodate us on set or have other fears that we are sick, in pain – often disability has negative associations. In fact, disability often doesn’t complicate life – it is just one way of how we are different. Interactions with a person with disability doesn’t require someone to say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘I hope you get better.’ You can have a fabulous, whole life, travel all around the world and play sports and do more than some able-bodied people – disability is not a bad thing.”
To find out more about Teal visit her website at http://www.tealsherer.com.