Recently, the Netflix TV series ‘The Healing Powers of Dude” premiered:
“Meet Noah, he’s an 11-year-old with social anxiety disorder starting middle school. School can be tough, but with the help of his emotional support dog, Dude, plus his friends and family, maybe it can be less scary. The Healing Powers of Dude arrives January 13 on Netflix.”
One of Noah’s friends is Amara, played by Sophie Kim. I happen to be friends and former colleagues with Sophie Kim’s mom. When I saw Sophie Kim’s mom post about her daughter about this, I knew I had to write about this TV series and her role in it:
“Ninety-five percent of characters with disabilities are played by actors without those disabilities. Amara, however, is played by Sophie Kim, an eleven-year-old with muscular dystrophy who has used a wheelchair since she was four years old. The production team committed early on to finding a young actress who uses a wheelchair, holding a nationwide search to find Sophie, and then adapting the role to her real-life experiences. “Representation is very important to us, as well as to Netflix,” said Spates and Littenberg-Weisberg. “We understand the power of seeing yourself represented in media and that the more you see it, the more it can become commonplace… [Casting Sophie] was one of the best decisions we made making this show. There was never a moment where Sophie didn’t show up to set ready to slay her scene. Nothing about her disability ever hindered production in any way.””
As noted above, one rarely see actual actors with disabilities playing a disabled person in TV or film, let alone an Asian American disabled person. The only TV series I can recall prominently highlighting a disabled person in a regular role is “Walt Jr. / Flynn” in ‘Breaking Bad’ (where the character has cerebral palsy, the actor had a milder case of the same condition).
Netflix does a short video segment with Sophie:
Sophie has an amazing singing voice and comes across eloquently, much wiser than her age suggests. I hope that Sophie is able to continue acting in future roles if that’s what she wants to do. She’s only 11!