It's been a pivotal couple of years for inclusivity in television, but there's still progress to be made. Comedian Maysoon Zayid is developing a comedy seriescalled Can-Can for ABC, and the show sounds exactly like the perspective that TV needs right now. According to Variety, the series will follow a Muslim woman who has Cerebral Palsy as she navigates her career, romantic relationships, and finding an identity separate from her opinionated parents. Zayid will write, executive produce, and star in the project, which is based on her own life experiences. If it makes it to air, the project could be a milestone for representation, as stories about women with disabilities and the Muslim-American experience rarely appear onscreen.
Zayid is best known as a comedian and disability activist. She's taken on small acting roles in the past, including a part in Adam Sandler's You Can't Mess With the Zohan, and appeared onscreen in the PBS special Stand Up: Muslim-American Comics Come of Age. However, she is possibly best known for her 2014 TED Talk titled I got 99 problems...palsy is just one, which went viral. In the talk, she conveys her unique perspective as a woman with a disability in a way that is smart and funny, and the video resonated with many people. The show will likely be an extension of this story, and it's an experience that has long been missing from TV.
Can-Can could be a major landmark for disability representation in film and television. Even though people with disabilities make up roughly 12.8 percent of the population in the United States, according to the 2016 United States Census, characters with disabilities are rare onscreen.
The unfortunate tradition of able-bodied actors playing characters with disabilities is another reason why Zayid's show will be groundbreaking. In 2016, the Ruderman Family Foundation conducted a report that found only 5 percent of characters with disabilities in TV and film are played by actors with disabilities. The foundation also surveyed hundreds of actors with disabilities, concluding that they regularly faced discrimination in auditions and many took on roles less than once a year.
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