Bryan Cranston Defends Playing a Disabled Man in ‘The Upside’ Amid Criticism

Bryan Cranston Defends Playing a Disabled Man in ‘The Upside,’ Says It Was a ‘Business Decision’
Bryan Cranston Walter McBride/Getty Images

For Bryan Cranston, a debate about representation might be The Upside to the controversy surrounding his latest role.

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In the film of that name — a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables and a spin on the life of Corsican businessman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo — the 62-year-old portrays a paralyzed billionaire who hires a formerly incarcerated man, played by Kevin Hart, to be his caretaker.

The Breaking Bad alum addressed the claims that the role should have gone to a disabled actor during an interview with the British Press Association. “We live in the world of criticism,” he told reporters, per Sky News. “If we’re willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism. We’re very aware of the need to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities.”

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The six-time Emmy winner said his casting in the film, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, “really came down to a business decision.”

He also delved into the debate of who can play what roles, a quandary that also inspired Scarlett Johansson to abandon the role of a transgender character in July and for Darren Criss to vow to stop playing gay characters in December.

“As actors, we’re asked to be other people, to play other people,” Cranston added. “If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual? I don’t know. Where does the restriction apply? Where is the line for that? I think it is worthy for debate to discuss those issues.”

Cranston’s comments come months after The Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization focusing on the inclusion of disabled individuals, called his casting “discrimination.”

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“While we don’t know the auditioning history of The Upside, casting a non-disabled actor to play a character with a disability is highly problematic and deprives performers with disabilities the chance to work and gain exposure,” foundation president Jay Ruderman said last year, per The Independent.

Ruderman added: “Non-disabled actors are routinely cast to play characters with disabilities, while actors with disabilities are rarely even auditioned for minor parts. This practice amounts to discrimination and we are working with Hollywood advocates to change that.”

The Upside hits theaters on Friday, January 11.

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