AS the conversation about the treatment of disabled actors continues to grow, Close-up Culture spoke with Paul Ford to learn more about his experiences in Hollywood.
Q: Can you start off by telling us more about your background and what led you to acting?
A: I was born in North Carolina with a bone disorder called Osteogenisis. I spent a lot of my childhood in and out of the hospital with countless amount of broken bones. When was in elementary school, I did commercials for the Easter Seals Foundation. Jumping forward to my high school years, I had a drama class and fell in love with doing improv.
I come from a musical family from my dad to my uncle. I decided I wanted to be a professional guitar player so, I taught myself to play guitar and traveled the States for a long time. In 2009. I was asked to do an acting role in a low budget horror film called Albino Farm starring wrestler Chris Jericho. Doing that role made me want to pursue acting again. At this time, I was living in the Midwest and did a few other horror films.
Once my kids got old enough. I decided to leave the corporate world and moved back to Hollywood in 2016. I am now being represented by CTalent LLC which is my manager and KMR Talent agency, I am truly lucky to have these people in my corner.
Q: What joys does acting bring you?
A: I really love stepping into a character and figuring out how I would react to each situation. As I stated before, I really love doing improv and comedy is my true focus. I really love making people laugh. The biggest gift you can give to someone is a smile. So I guess you can say I’m a people pleaser.
Q: Who are some of the influential figures in your acting career so far?
A: THIS is a hard one for sure. I have met so many influential people in my acting career.
I will say first the very talented actor Eileen Grubba. She is a big advocate in the disability community. I really admire Eileen for not only her acting but just her spirit. I am always saying when I grow up I wanna be just like Eileen I am lucky to call her friend.
My next would be actor and great friend Kelly Perine from the show Knight Squad. Whenever I need advice or a kick in the pants I can always turn to him. His main advice to me is if they are not coming to you then create your own stuff. He also say’s find people that are on team Paul.
This brings me to my other influences my manager Keely Wells at C Talent she’s always looking for ways to get me connected to someone in the industry. My Agent Gail Williamson with KMR Talent Agency. I really respect her advice she’s another fighter for having diversity in the industry.
Q: You recently voiced frustration at the attitude of casting directors for a Wells Fargo ad. What happened and is this a common experience for you?
A: OK so here’s my issue with this. A few months ago I submitted for a commercial asking for a male age 50 to play a financial planner. In my submission I added in the notes that I was in the financial industry for 15 years and in fact still have a brokers license. I wasn’t asked to audition for the role. This is an issue because believe it or not disabled people have everyday regular jobs. The problem is this industry doesn’t show this. This needs to change. People are preaching diversity but as always the disabled community isn’t included.
Q: What do you feel are some of the steps the industry needs to take to improve opportunities for disabled actors?
A: FIRST this industry needs to understand that a lot of what they produce shapes societies views. This industry also needs to understand that the disabled community have everyday lives just like the rest of the world. We are doctors, lawyers, siblings, parents and believe it or not some are criminals. They need to open the doors and give us a fair shot. I know that sounds simple and in reality it is. If they would wake up they could end up with a very talented person in front of them.
Q: You mentioned Eileen Grubba earlier. Can you tell us about the work you are doing with her and #ALLin?
A: I met Eileen a few years ago on Facebook and followed her for awhile. Two years ago, I reached out to her about wanting to join in the Easter Seals Film challenge and she helped me get on a team. This year I was lucky enough to be on her team which I have to say was awesome. We did a short film called What About the Boy.
A few months ago, I was at a disability discussion at USC. There was a man who started his own foundation to help disabled composers with equipment. I thought to myself there should be something like this for disabled actors. I reached out to Eileen with my idea of wanting to be more involved in the disabled community and I explained to her my idea. I want to be able to help other disabled actors with fees associated with being an actor with such things as, acting classes, headshots, demo reels and joining SAG. Eileen thought this was great also.
We are going to be hosting our first acting class this month. I also reached out to a friend photographer Peggy Warny who’s been in this industry for a very long time. She agreed without any hesitation to speak on how to get the best headshot and is offering one free headshot taken the same day.
My ultimate goal is to host something like this once a month and get people to donate the funds that believe in our cause. The #ALLin is to make people more aware of the lack of real diversity in society especially when it comes to the disabled community.
Q: What are your hopes for the future – both for yourself and for disabled actors more generally?
A: MY main hope is to show the rest of the world that disabled people are no different than anyone. I want to be able to submit for a role and be able to feel confident that I will be able to get in the front door. I want this industry to see me as an actor who happens to be disabled not as a disabled actor. I am pretty sure that every disabled actor feels the same way. I want to set an example for my daughters that if they really want something and they work hard they can accomplish anything.
Q: What type of projects and roles interest you as an actor?
A: MY biggest dream is to be a regular on Grey’s Anatomy as a doctor. I also love doing comedy and pushing the limits on comedy. I love making people laugh. I tell everyone I’m a funny guy, but my daughters tell me I’m not funny (laughs). I really would like to show this industry and the rest of the world that I could play an everyday type person.
Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?
A: Well, I am in the middle of writing with some fellow actors something good. I am also a co-writer on a comedy we are seeking funding to shoot the series. I am also being featured in a national magazine called Inspiring Lives so be on the look our for that. I submit everyday and who knows you may see me on a network show sometime soon.