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How Gamut Management Pushes for Inclusion of Talent With Disabilities


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The impetus behind the creation of the Runway of Dreams foundation in 2014 was Mindy Scheier’s son, Oliver. Living with muscular dystrophy and leg braces, he begged to wear jeans to school like everybody else. “I stayed up that night and ripped out the zipper and cut up the side seams to allow for his leg braces and replaced it all with Velcro,” the former fashion designer recalls. “It wasn’t pretty, but it worked!”

In the years since, the nonprofit — which held its first West Coast fashion show March 8 in L.A. — has pushed to expand representation for people with disabilities in the fashion industry and advocated for styles that adapt to their needs. Over a billion people globally, with nearly $13 trillion in disposable income, have a disability, according to Scheier, and they want options.

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Scheier (right) at the Runway of Dreams fashion show on March 8 with Rocco Keller, an actor who has Down syndrome. The foundation advocates for inclusive fashion and gives design scholarships and wardrobe grants.

Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Along the way, film producers, agencies, research companies and brands have reached out to Scheier, seeking guidance with product and service development, marketing, casting, production, sales and management training, and hiring practices to cater to people with disabilities — leading Scheier to launch Gamut Management in 2019.

The management consulting and talent agency currently reps more than 700 individuals with disabilities worldwide for acting, modeling, voiceover and influencer placement.

“Businesses are more ready to embrace and learn from people with disabilities,” says Gamut COO Molly Kettle. “People want to do well and so they just need some of the keys and tools and know-how, which is what Gamut provides, so they feel confident in serving the population.”

Scheier chimes in: “In the entertainment industry, our team will not only provide talent, we also help agents, other managers and production teams really understand how to work with talent. What are their requirements? We created something we call an accessibility contract. When any of our talent gets booked on set or in studio, the production company has to sign this to state that it is aware of all the needs [like having meals served on set and providing drinking straws] that talent has.”

Clients have included Disney, Tommy Hilfiger, American Express, Target Zappos, QVC, FootLocker, Kohl’s, Free People and Adidas. Gamut interfaces with execs such as Nickelodeon director of talent and casting Danielle Pretsfelder Demchick, Victoria’s Secret chief diversity officer Lydia Smith, and Disney Television Animation casting manager Jennifer Trujillo.

“In 2020, our company really committed to more ethical casting, specifically regarding actors with disabilities and diversity,” Trujillo tells THR, adding that she has been working with Gamut since 2019. “Gamut has been an integral partner in making sure that our casting process is more equitable toward these groups. They’re now receiving all of our casting breakdowns and sending us some wonderful people for all of our roles, whether or not the character has a disability,” says Trujillo. “We’ve got one of their incredibly talented kids in a role in one of our series coming out this year.”

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Actor Danny Gomez in the Runway of Dreams fashion show.

Courtesy of Subject

Pushing companies to think outside the box is key. Commenting that the cerebral palsy affecting her right side helps her connect with accessibility needs, Gamut talent manager Elisabeth Good says: “When we start submitting talent for roles that aren’t specifically for disabilities, that’s where doors can open, because anyone can be a receptionist or a dental hygienist. But most casting directors don’t think of hiring someone with a disability until you put it in their face.”

Actor Danny Gomez — who is paralyzed from the waist down after a mountain biking accident (and is represented by Gamut for fashion work) — tells THR that four stereotypical roles are constantly written for actors with disabilities. “There’s a veteran, someone who’s really depressed, someone super inspirational or someone who wants to kill themselves,” he says. “But I just found out that I booked the show All Rise as a young lawyer. It’s great because he happens to be in a wheelchair, but he’s a lawyer fighting for his client. The representation with that, when someone sees me onscreen, is like, ‘Yes, I can do that!’”

He continues: “One of our biggest pet peeves is seeing a film where a disabled character is played by an able-bodied person. It’s still happening. We are like, ‘What is going on?’ We have a little Twitter army now. Shows will say they couldn’t find anyone, but I can name 10 actors right off the bat.”

Some disability advocates criticized the Glee casting of Kevin McHale, who is not disabled, as paraplegic Artie Abrams. “It should give an actor in a wheelchair an opportunity.” says Good. “A rare example I noticed that was authentic was RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, [playing Walter “Flynn” White Jr.] on Breaking Bad.

Echoes Gomez, “We are out there and we want to work. There’s a lot of talent. We just need to get in the rooms and show what we’ve got!”

That’s where Gamut Management steps in.

“One of the most wonderful parts of this is that other management companies, other agencies, are reaching out to us,” says Scheier. “If they don’t have people with disabilities on their rosters, then we work together. That’s how we grow. And that’s how we are hopefully changing the landscape of the entertainment industry.”

A version of this story first appeared in the March 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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