DC and Warner Bros.' 2011 Green Lantern movie isn't often remembered fondly, having failed to live up to expectations with fans, critics, and at the box office. For one actress, however, the film was a pivotal, life-changing experience.
In a recent interview with io9, actress Angel Giuffria talked about her hope that, with the success of Black Panther and Wonder Woman proving that diverse, representative films can be both popular and profitable there will be more opportunities for people with disabilities on the big screen. As part of that interview, Giuffria revealed how her role in Green Lantern changed her life and career.
Giuffria is a self-described "bionic actress." Born missing her arm below the elbow, Giuffria has worn a prosthesis from a very young age. However, acting is a difficult business even for people without visible differences so when she went from a regular background extra to featured extra for a classroom scene in the Ryan Reynolds starring film, Giuffria was concerned that her disability might be an issue.
"I started panicking, and I walked up to them and said something no extra would say: 'Excuse me, but I need to speak to the director,'" Giuffria said. "They just looked at me and laughed, then I had to go 'No, um, I have one arm' and someone quickly went 'I'll be right back.'"
What happened next is something that she credits with changing her career.
"They got him, and he goes ‘What’s going on?’" she explained. "I launched into my big prepared story of ‘You know, I’m really excited you picked me and I would love to do this. I am an actress and I understand how film works and I don’t want to draw attention away from the scene and not reflect your vision if this isn’t what you want, I only want to make sure you’re aware.’ He just looked at me and goes, ‘Have you ever been late to class before?’ And I remember in my head going ‘duh.’ I knew I was a one-armed girl who had been late for class before, but it was the idea that this amazing director who had done all this stuff was like ‘Well, I don’t see why you can’t do it.’ Literally that was when I stopped wearing [my prosthesis]. I went on to get an agent and stopped covering it up. One day I really want to meet him again and say ‘Hey, thanks.’ He really gave me a lot of confidence and he made me feel like it could happen.”
Of course, even though Giuffria's career has moved in a positive direction, actors with disabilities being cast in projects is still an area Hollywood needs to work on, especially when it comes to characters portrayed as having those disabilities. Often when characters with disabilities appear in films and television they are portrayed by actors without those differences -- Giuffria specifically gives the example of Charlize Theron's role in Mad Max Fury Road. While there has been some progress with A Quiet Place casting deaf actress Millicent Simmonds to play a deaf character in the film, there's still a long way to go and Giuffria isn't planning to stop anytime soon.
"Making an effort to represent the world around you better will actually make a difference in the world being better," she said. "I truly believe that and it's happening... it's happening and I'm not gonna quit until it does."