Deaf Community Members Call Out CBS' The Stand for Casting Hearing Actor in Deaf Role
Henry Zaga, a hearing actor, portrays Nick Andros, a character who is Deaf and signs throughout the series
Eighty signatories issued a statement speaking out about the decision to cast a hearing actor in a Deaf role in the recent CBS adaptation of The Stand.
The statement, shared on Twitter by filmmaker and TV writer Jade Bryan, is titled "Taking a Stand Against The Stand" and states that the selection of Henry Zaga to play Nick Andros, a character who is Deaf and signs throughout the series, "is not acceptable."
"Not one Deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role," the statement claims. "The decision was made without respect to and for Deaf professionals, union and non-union alike. There was no acknowledgement given to the psyche of a Deaf character; being Deaf is more than just not hearing."
It continues, "We will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access. We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the miniseries on CBS All Access with our Deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of Deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide."
Bryan captioned the Thursday post, "As a Black Deaf filmmaker/TV Creator, advocate of diversity & inclusion, acting instructor, & creator/owner of #Deaftalent campaign, I believe in change. It shouldn't be that difficult to cast the right person for the role."
PEOPLE has reached out CBS All Access for comment. A source close to the show tells PEOPLE that CBS had a productive meeting on Thursday with the Deaf artists' community that released the statement.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Friday, Bryan said: "My thoughts about Stephen King’s The Stand, how Hollywood continues to cast Deaf roles to hearing actors, is beyond exhausting. One thing I would like to commend the television industry and casting directors for is casting more POC/Black Deaf actors in disabled roles in television, and for not giving the roles to non-disabled actors."
"Still, 2020. The Hollywood Industry continues to give Deaf roles to non-disabled actors. I have been in the business for over 25 years, and I am the first Black Deaf filmmaker," continued Bryan. "This is not the '90s. Deaf artists are thriving. There are a large pool of Deaf actors who are qualified enough to play the character Nick Andros. CSB AllAccess failed them because there was no casting notice which afforded them the opportunity to audition and showcase their talent for the role.”
Nyle DiMarco, a model and actor who is Deaf, spoke out about the decision to cast Zaga over a year ago.
"Hollywood takes pride in diversity to ensure representation & authenticity…, BUT CONTINUES TO EXCLUDE people with disabilities," he tweeted in August 2019 when the cast was announced.
That month, DiMarco told Oprah Magazine that he reached out to co-creator Josh Boone about the decision.
"When I saw that it was in development with director Josh Boone, I reached out and mentioned that I truly hoped he'd choose a Deaf person to play the role," he said at the time. "And over the last two years, I have not received any kind of response back. So either he didn't receive it, or he was ignoring my comments altogether."
The Stand has been adapted once before, in a 1994 miniseries starring Rob Lowe as Nick Andros. DiMarco said he was "very familiar" with Lowe's performance and wished to "navigate" the new adaptation through the casting process, but "was ignored."