Presented in partnership with SAG-AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee & SAG-AFTRA EEO & Diversity
With all the discussion about diversity and inclusion, it seems one group is often left out of the conversation. Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) represent the largest community in the US, encompassing every race, creed, nationality, age and gender. And yet, PWDs reflect only 1% of the representation on film and television with very few writers, directors, producers and production crew represented as well. Join this panel of entertainment industry panelists, including agents, casting directors, writers and actors who are leading the charge and influencing Hollywood to be inclusive of disability.
RJ Mitte (Actor, Breaking Bad)
Russell Boast (President, CSA)
Allen Rucker (Chair, Writers with Disabilities Committee, WGA)
Gail Williamson (KMR, Agent)
Antoinette Abbamonte (Actress, Curb Your Enthusiasm)
Moderator: Sheila Traister (SAG-AFTRA Colorado Local President)
Multi-faceted actor, producer and model, RJ Mitte is best known for his powerful performance as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in AMC’s highly-acclaimed and widely popular dramatic thriller Breaking Bad. RJ will soon be seen in the new feature films Standing Upfor Sunny and All The Little Things We Kill. He was recently seen in the international feature film Tiempo Compartido (Official Selection World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance) and starred in The Recall opposite Wesley Snipes. RJ’s other credits include ABC Family's Switched at Birth, the IFC film Dixieland, and the feature film Who's Driving Doug.
Russell Boast was born and raised in South Africa. His extensive career in the movie business began when he was hired to work with Producer Lloyd Phillips and director Martin Campbell on Beyond Borders starring Angelina Jolie. He moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and swiftly found himself in demand by the Hollywood Theatre, Film and Television industry. He worked as an associate casting director and casting director alongside his mentor Rick Pagano X-Men, Aliens, Hotel Rwanda and with Debi Manwiller 24 - The Series for Pagano/ Manwiller Casting for over 8 years before branching off with Debi Manwiller to form Manwiller/ Boast Casting. Recent television credits; The Fix - Marsha Clark for ABC/ABC, Proven Innocent for FOX/ FOX, Chance for FOX/ HULU, Insatiable for CBS/Netflix, Wicked City for ABC/ABC, the Unt. Mars Project for CBS/CW, Franklin and Bash for TNT/ SONY and Good Christian Bitches for ABC/ DISNEY. His Film credits include; The Tribe, Paradise Club, Tortured, The Guest Room, From The Head, Home Run Showdown and White Irish Drinkers with creator of The Ghost Whisperer John Gray which Russell Cast and Co-Produced. Russell is currently the President of the Casting Society of America, heading up the organization's Inclusion and Diversity and Training and Education Committees.
Allen Rucker grew up in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and has degrees from Washington University, St. Louis, University of Michigan, and Stanford. His near- forty-year writing career includes award-winning documentaries, sketch comedy, enumerable network specials, and a dozen books, including three books on The Sopranos and a memoir of life after paralysis, “The Best Seat in The House,” a New York Times Book Review “Editor’s Choice.” He is the recipient of the duPont- Columbia Journalism Award, two Writers Guild of America Awards, and two CableAce Awards, among others. His second career as a disability advocate began with being named Chair of the WGA Writers with Disabilities Committee in 2007, which led to co-chairing the resurrected Media Access Awards in 2010.
Gail Williamson joined the KMR Diversity Department in 2013 focusing on clients with disabilities. She challenged herself to grow the department and make a positive impact on the entertainment media’s inclusion of characters with disabilities in television, film, theatre, commercials and print. Gail’s vision for inclusion comes from assisting her own son in his career. Blair, who was born with Down syndrome, became an actor at the age of 11 in a national commercial. As a teen and adult, Blair’s resume grew with some very respectable credits. While Blair’s career was growing, Gail found employment with the California Governor’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities in their Media Access Office where she honed her skills working with talent with disabilities.
Actress Antoinette Abbamonte doesn’t let her deafness get in the way when it comes to her career in Hollywood, appearing in Larry David’s highly-anticipated return of the HBO comedy show, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Antoinette’s recent performing endeavors include The New Normal, created by envelope-pushing Ryan Murphy. It is a heartwarming, half-hour sitcom about a blended family of a gay couple and the woman who becomes a surrogate to help them start a family. Abbamonte has been breaking down barriers in Hollywood and encouraging others to do the same for years. She recently appeared on the ABC Family hit-drama, Switched At Birth and also on the wildly successful FOX sitcom, Raising Hope.
Currently working with home-school students in Los Angles and Irvine. She directs and instructs drama for the throughout school’s project with students who are also deaf.
Sheila Traister is a director, writer and award-winning actress with over 35 years of experience in film, television, voiceover/animation, commercials, theater and improv. As an educator she created the acting department at CFS (The Colorado Film School) in 1999, is adjunct faculty at UCD (Univ. of Colo. Denver) and has a private coaching practice with clients around the world. She’s going on her 25th consecutive year of leadership in both legacy SAG and AFTRA and has served as the Colorado Local President and National Board Member since merger in 2012. She currently serves on six SAG-AFTRA national committees: PWD (Persons With Disabilities), Military Personnel and Family Support, Diversity Advisory, Dancers, Conservatory and is Co-Vice Chair on the Asian Pacific American Media Committee. A member of the PWD community she’s a strong advocate for fair and equitable treatment, representation and opportunities for all PWD’s throughout the entertainment industry.