CBS Launches Its Second Performers With Disabilities Talent Initiative

CBS is launching the second cycle of its Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative, which aims to provide meaningful opportunities for performers with disabilities in television roles. Since its launch in September last year, CBS has made significant strides, the network says, hosting 3 audition workshops, conducting a casting 101 panel, and facilitating an internal disability training for network executives.

Now in its second year, the initiative aims to broaden its focus by offering PWDs opportunities to enhance acting skills and develop storytelling and pitch capabilities. Panels and workshops are scheduled in Los Angeles and New York, with more details to follow. An internal task force, comprising of Casting, Development, Current, and Office of Global Inclusion (OGI) executives, will ensure robust programming and enhanced access.

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Last year’s cycle included the authentic casting of a PWD in a series regular role for the upcoming series Tracker and 19 PWD cast in recurring, guest star, or co-star roles during the 2022-2023 season, CBS says. Additionally, audition workshops in New York, Los Angeles, and virtually garnered significant interest, with 44 PWDs receiving confirmed auditions for series regular roles in the 2023 pilot season.

The database received over 1,000 submissions and now includes 600+ performers. Education and awareness were bolstered through industry expert panels and activism, according to the network.

“At Paramount, it’s imperative for us to focus on the urgent need for greater disability inclusion and representation by offering more opportunities in front and behind the camera, says Marva Smalls, Global Head of Inclusion at Paramount and EVP, Public Affairs, Nickelodeon. “We are proud of the continued success of “The CBS Performers with Disabilities Talent Initiative” to provide meaningful and real-time opportunities for performers with disabilities while bolstering our commitment to representation and authentic portrayals across all underrepresented groups.”

The initiative coincides with Paramount’s second edition of its annual day-long Summit on Disability, dedicated to championing greater disability inclusion in the media and entertainment industry. This year will feature panels, fireside chats, and workshops delving into topics including: Disability Representation in Media and Arts; Learning ASL with The Sign Language Company; Power of Humor: It’s Okay to Laugh with comedian Danielle Perez  and Thriving in the Workplace with Visible and Invisible Disabilities: Ensuring our Workplace is accessible to all colleagues.

Additionally, Paramount has introduced Adapt, its ninth Employee Resource Group (ERG). Adapt is formed to enhance inclusion, visibility, belonging, and to drive positive change for people with disabilities, both in the workplace and in content, by educating, engaging, and empowering while removing barriers of exclusion for all Paramount employees.

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