Emily: Hi, I’m Emily Ladau.
Kyle: I’m Kyle Khachadurian.
Emily: You’re listening to one of our new favorite episodes of The Accessible Stall and we haven’t even recorded it.
Kyle: How do you already know that, Emily?
Emily: Because we officially have our coolest guest ever today.
Kyle: Who could that be?
Emily: Can you introduce yourself, Mystery Guest?
RH: My name is Ryan J. Haddad.
Emily: I’m so excited. Ryan is a big deal in case you don’t already know, really big deal. Anyway, he’s royalty, and we have him on our show and we’re pretty excited about it. We think you should all be excited about it, too. Ryan, can you tell us a little bit about who you are for the peasants at home who don’t know?
RH: Oh my goodness. This is overwhelming. I love it though because I love both of you, but it’s overwhelming. I’m fine. I’m getting over it. Glamour. Glamour. I am an actor, playwright, and autobiographical performer and up until very recently I was primarily known for my solo plays about myself.
Now, I am also known as a recurring character on the new Netflix series, The Politician. I play the character of Andrew, who is known for his sardonic wit, his Hawaiian shirts that feature leopards, and his walker, frankly, let’s just be honest about that. Thank you. That’s who I am. I’m Ryan J. Haddad. I think I’m done introducing myself.
Kyle: Awesome. It was perfect.
Emily: That’s a perfect introduction.
Kyle: Oh man.
RH: I’m letting you guys host, so you tell– what do I say next?
Emily: Yes, we got a whole list of questions for you. Don’t you worry.
RH: My favorite flavor of popcorn, or like what?
Emily: Actually, you know what? Tell us your favorite flavor of popcorn. That was–
RH: There’s only one and it’s just standard popcorn with butter because if you… caramel corn, I can tolerate, but cheese popcorn, absolutely not; also, never kettle corn. I mean why on earth? It’s like hell. Why?
Kyle: I had no idea that there were people so passionate about popcorn.
RH: It’s fake. Then people are holding a bucket of popcorn and like, “Do you want some?” and it is kettle corn, that’s a betrayal.
Emily: I mean I have to say this is all actually very relevant because you eat popcorn while you’re watching movies. When you’re a movie star, you can tell people that they’re not allowed to eat kettle corn during a screening of your movie. That seems totally reasonable.
Kyle: That’s true. Yes, it’s a good point.
RH: I am not yet a movie star, maybe perhaps someday. Until then, I’m just here on this podcast telling people that kettle corn is forbidden.
Emily: Fair. No kettle corn. We are not sponsored by the makers of kettle corn…
RH: So true.
Emily: … and now, we never will be. Thanks so much, Ryan.
RH: You can always cut this out if you’re really wanting to butter up, but it’s not even butter because it’s kettle corn.
Emily: Now, we can’t cut it. He made a popcorn joke.
Kyle: Yes, we want to know. Can you tell us how you landed the role of Andrew in The Politician? Were they seeking someone disabled for that part, or did you just show up?
RH: I did not just show up. They were actively seeking somebody specifically with cerebral palsy. The line, ”I have cerebral palsy and I like getting high” was in the audition side. They were very deliberate about their desire to be inclusive and to make a character that was going to wreak some havoc and stir some thoughts, but have this part of his identity which was… so specifically cerebral palsy.
He had to be able to be believably high school which at the time, I was like, “Interesting. Okay,” but thrilled to do it, of course. I knew because Ben Platt was attached for years in advance of the audition. I knew that like, “Okay. If the people playing high school are in their… if they’re all their mid-20s, it sort of equals this all out.”
I just sent in the tape. I was actually working on a… developing a new play that I had written at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and they asked me to come in New York and I was in Berkeley so I just sent in a tape. It was two scenes and then I didn’t hear anything for a while and then I heard that I probably got it. They couldn’t officially say, but I probably got it.
The first actual, real notification which I was surprised that this is how I found out was that Ben Platt had put many of the regular cast members into… regular and recurring cast members into an Instagram thread. It said like, “Welcome to the show. I’m so excited for what we’re going to make.” I was like, “Oh, I guess I got… I guess it’s real I guess.”
Kyle: That’s awesome.
RH: Yes, it was really fun. Then I had to call some people and be like, “I need to know for su–” This is real. I screamed and shouted and it was like, “This is real.” Then I had to do some business stuff after that. After the euphoria of this message from the fairy god person that was Ben Platt, I was like, “Okay. Now, I actually need to make sure I’m hired.”
Emily: Right, like, “Is this an April Fool’s joke, or are we actually doing this?”
RH: Right, but it all worked out and we filmed in December and Fall of 2018.
Kyle: That’s awesome. I can’t even imagine that feeling. Did you have any input in how Andrew would be developed in terms of a character?
RH: Not actually with the writing but when I was cast they first… at first, the breakdown said he was a sophomore and that he was 16. Then the audition scene came through and it was implied that he was going to college. I was like, “Okay, so maybe they have bumped him up.”
By the time I was cast, he was rebuilt as a high school senior. Also, I guess in terms of the writing, no, I didn’t have creative input but they did say like, “We want you to use the mobility device that you’re most comfortable with,” which I thought was really great.
Kyle: That is cool.
RH: He had been written to use the scooter. Frankly, if they had asked me to use a scooter, on day one they would learn very quickly that I don’t know how to drive, no matter what kind of device it is. So it was very generous of them to be able to just right off the bat, they said, “You can use your walker. No problem at all.” I guess those would be the two things that they aged him up slightly to match my real age, or match what could believably be my age; and then they changed him from a motorized scooter to a walker.
Emily: I mean–
Kyle: That’s really cool to me.
Emily: The walker thing is a big deal though because I don’t know about you, but when I see people who don’t have command of a certain piece of mobility equipment using it in a role, I can very clearly tell.
RH: Sure. I’m not sure how familiar you are with my resume but my very first television credit, which was absolutely zero lines of dialogue at all, but I was next to Jeff Goldblum for about 15 seconds.
Emily: Excuse me while I fan myself.
Kyle: That’s so cool.
RH: It was Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was very deliberately a motorized scooter. I don’t know if I like lied and said that I could, but I definitely was bumping into furniture on that set. The take that made it in, I looked like I have some command of it, but anyone who was actually watching me that day was like, “This person has never operated machinery in his life.”
Emily: This is a lie.
RH: Why on earth? Anyway, that was Thomas Fletching and his syndrome with a disease so rare that they made it after him. I just thought it was a writing choice that Thomas could not speak and so I had no line, but it was fun. Jeff Goldblum said that we looked alike. He said it, not I, which was a very big a surprise to me because I think that he is one of the sexiest people on earth.
By extension then, I will extend that complement to our friend Kyle here because Kyle and I have often said that we look like twins.
Kyle: We are though.
RH: So if Jeff Goldblum says that I look like him, by extension, you also look like Jeff Goldblum. I think that we should just play his sons in a movie sometime.
Kyle: I couldn’t agree more. Every word of that sentence made it better and I love it so much.
RH: I’ve tried to talk to you about playing me in the future and you’ve said that you’re not an actor, but we can work on that, I’m telling you.
Kyle: You know what? I think it’s time for a career change, Emily.
Emily: I mean if you have a voice for a podcast, maybe it’s time to see if you have a face for the screen.
Kyle: It’s funny bec–
RH: He definitely does.
Kyle: It’s funny, Ryan, you posted a before and after, I mean in Netflix did and you just shared it, but–
RH: Netflix did it and I started crying. I was like, “Netflix can… what are you doing to me? Making me emotional.”
Kyle: That before picture could have been me. It was ridiculous, I showed my parents. It’s like, “Look at this kid, he looks just like me.”
RH: …You know what? When I was little, I used to have a theater company called the Haddad Theatre. By that I mean I just made my parents and family put on place in the living room and backyard. There was a time when I really believed for several months in kindergarten that we were going to do The Parent Trap, a live version of The Parent Trap.
Kyle: Oh my god.
RH: That was difficult because I’m not a twin so how do you do that if it’s like…? Oh, that would imply that the gender would have changed. I think I really was like… I was buddies with this little blonde boy in kindergarten and I thought that we could conceivably be twins, me and this little blonde boy.
But if only I had known that there was a Kyle out there who looked exactly like me, we could have done The Parent Trap live from the backyard of the Haddad family in Parma, Ohio.
Kyle: I feel like we could still do that, maybe not necessarily from your backyard.
Emily: Can you please sign me up? Because first of all, the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap is the actual best movie ever made.
RH: It was the definition of our childhood. I watched it on a daily basis.
Emily: I love that movie and– [0:13:11 crosstalk]. Oh my god.
RH: Now, who would you play, Emily? Would you play Chessy?
Emily: Yes, I like Chessy because she’s sassy, and I don’t think I could play the mom. She’s a little bit too–
RH: Not opposite. No, not opposite. Not opposite me and Kyle, you could not play the mom.
Emily: Yes, I can be Chessy. I could be one of the angry camp counselors.
RH: You know what? I wasn’t going to reduce you to a day-play role. I wasn’t going to do that.
Emily: Thank you.
RH: I wanted you to have a nice salary.
Emily: Alternatively, can I just direct this or produce this?
RH: I look forward to that. I mean I think we couldn’t be in better hands.
Emily: I’m delighted. Also, love The Parent Trap, love you two. This is great. Let’s make some dreams come true right now. You heard it here first.
RH: Of course, you had to watched the Hayley Mills’ version, from the ’60s?
Emily: Of course, the original?
Emily: Yes, but–
RH: But you watched Lindsay first because we were young.
Emily: Yes, and also because I’m a cultural failure and think that the Lindsay Lohan version is way better than the original.
RH: I didn’t say… I don’t have an opinion. I don’t think that’s a cultural failure. I think that’s a very… for instance, I think that Sister Act 2 is supremely better than Sister Act 1.
Emily: That’s saying something because a lot of sequels aren’t that great. I have not seen Sister Act 2, so I can’t speak for this.
RH: Oh my gosh. Many people would tell you that I’m dead wrong, but I was raised on the Sister Act 2. Before The Parent Trap came out, the movie that I watched every day was Sister Act 2. I hope to sort of become famous enough in a short enough period of time that Whoopi Goldberg will still be appearing on The View and I can go on to The View and then just cry at her face.
Emily: I’m going to do–
RH: You had questions, didn’t you?
Emily: I’m going to do my best to somehow bring this all around from production of The Parent Trap in your backyard to crying in front of Whoopi Goldberg. So…
Emily: I think that actually is a good segue into the question that I was going to ask because you played the role of Andrew in The Politician. That role was a disabled character, but it seems like in your early acting career trying to put together a live-action version of The Parent Trap… or not live action, but a live theatrical performance of The Parent Trap that you were clearly unconcerned with whether or not the twins actually had disabilities or not. My question–
RH: In our version of The Parent Trap, you know what I mean? When I was–
Emily: I mean they’re definitely going to be disabled in this new version that we’re doing with you and me and Kyle.
RH: For sure. I was, you’re right. [0:16:32 I’m in a good position].
Emily: Would you rather be known as a disabled actor or just an actor?
RH: No, I’m an actor. That’s it. I’m an actor, but it’s not that I’m ashamed if somebody calls me a disabled actor. That’s also a true statement, it’s literally a fact. I’m a disabled actor, but I would like to be known as an actor and a playwright and a solo performer. A lot of my solo work talks about disability. Some shows primarily are about disabilities, some shows are not.
There’s a play of mine that I’ve written that doesn’t… that is actually the thing I was at Berkeley Repertory Theatre working on. That’s about my gay uncle and my family and so it’s six actors plus me. That play has nothing to do with the disability at all. In that the character of Ryan… autobiographically of the character Ryan is just a member of the family and he is disabled, the walker’s there.
But I actually believe …I’m not good at sound bites so forgive me for this. No matter what character I play ever, unless I’m sitting behind a desk, right, and you can’t see any kind of mobility difference, the character becomes disabled. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a revival of a play or a revival of a musical, or it’s a character in a film or TV show that wasn’t written to be disabled. If Andrew, in fact, had not been written to be disabled in The Politician and I played him, then therefore he would have become disabled because you can’t un-see it. There it is.
RH: There are people with invisible disabilities that the line is different and that it’s not a such hard like, “And yes, this character is now disabled.” But in my case, it’s there. So I am an actor. I’m a disabled actor. I wouldn’t necessarily want to… I do not, in fact, when I was recently searching for acting representation, I do not…
I told everyone that I spoke to and ultimately the one that I chose, who I adore, I said, “I do not want to only be considered for parts that were written to be disabled. I should be considered for every single, funny, gay character in their mid-20s, every single one.” Why on earth am I not being considered…?
Kyle: And you should play every single one, too, as far as I’m concerned.
RH: No. I mean there’s a big pool. Right, but I would at least like to be able to read the scene. I’d like to be able to go to the audition room, do my two minutes. Thank you. Goodbye. Right? That’s not always an opportunity that is afforded to actors who are disabled.
But I do believe that if I booked one of those roles, the character would, by extension, even if it’s never talked about, if I’m standing there with a walker, he’s disabled. There it is. Does that answer the question?
Emily: Yes, it totally does.
Kyle: It sure does.
Emily: The reason that I was really curious about it is because something that I’ve noticed as someone who very involved in the disability activism world and also as someone who has done some coverage of actors who identify as disabled, I’ve noticed that there still tends to be this pigeonholing of actors who have disabilities where they’re known as “the disabled actor.” So I was just curious to know how you perceived that and how you identify yourself. I think that you definitely covered that.
RH: Yes. I don’t have more to say.
Kyle: That was a perfect segue into my next question which was, have you ever actively experienced discrimination in your pursuits of finding acting jobs because of your disability? If yes, can you please tell us about it?
Kyle: I mean I guess it’s one of those things were you don’t know but you know.
Kyle: Have you ever felt like you have?
RH: Not in a professional setting.
RH: No, not professionally but I’ve only been acting professionally for four years. I graduated from undergrad in Central Ohio in May of 2015. So I’ve been a professional actor for four years and I have, primarily, not all the time, but primarily was creating my own work as I said. I’m a writer/performer, so I’m primarily creating my own work.
When I have gone into an audition setting, a lot of times it’s because they’re looking for disabled people, sometimes not, but never have I felt, “Oh, I didn’t get something because of…” or no, not professionally. But I will say that I mean it certainly happened when I was young. Again, as you said, you don’t know but you know, right?
RH: There were roles that I wanted that I probably would have been great for, but I was often given roles… as a teenager, I’m playing the grandfather, or I’m playing the older uncle, or I’m playing the father. There’s something in which the walker makes sense. Actually, my first Youth Theater… no, I don’t know, qualify time because I started acting with people my own age at the age of seven, right?
I went into auditions and often when I didn’t get a part I would be struck with, did I not get the part because I wasn’t right for it, or did I not get the part that I… because of the disability? Did I get this other part instead if I did get cast? Did I get this other part instead because of the walker?
Was I not seen for the lead role because I was better as a comedian actor with a supporting role, or is it because I had a walker and they didn’t know what to do with the walker?
I just touched the walker if you heard a note. So those kinds of questions, which started in my early to mid-teens and went all the way through high school and sometimes even in to college, those sort of if a particular director I wasn’t sure about, or were they sure about me and my abilities as an actor or otherwise? I was always second-guessing and I was unsure.
When I arrived at Ohio Wesleyan University, which is the college that I went to, I remember telling them in my theatre, I’ll never forget, that I was going to be a playwright and director because I didn’t think based on what I had experienced in high school in Youth Theater.
I had some wonderful experiences with some wonderful people, wonderful directors, but there were other experiences and other times when I was like, “Hmm, interesting.” I realized, “Oh, I’m probably not going to be able to make it as an actor who looks the way I do, or has the mobility difference that I have.”
Also, we weren’t seeing it on the TV at that time. What we were seeing, we were seeing Glee in which the character of Artie was played by a non-disabled actor. We were seeing other iterations of that same kind of thing, and so I just said like, “I’m going to be a playwright and a director. I’m going to be behind the scenes, and maybe I’ll write some stuff for people who are disabled,” but I didn’t think I was going to be writing for myself. I didn’t think it was going to be solo work. I didn’t know what the heck solo work was. I was just like, “That’s weird performance arc.”
But I was writing in the English department. I was a double major in creative writing and theater. I was writing personal essays, freshman and sophomore year, and I was starting to write short plays, which were fake fiction. They were not fictionalized plays at all, but I would like to give people different names, but it would really be me, or it would be a version of me in a made up circumstance, or it would be two family members of mine in a made circumstance without me being the character. Those are the kinds of plays that I was writing, but they were not very good. They were not very good plays.
Then my mentor in solo performance, Tim Miller, came from Los Angeles for a week-long workshop. He sprinkled his magic fairy dust. He said, “You, in fact, can be doing these personal essays on the stage as solo plays or performances.”
Suddenly, it all clicked because I’m a very skilled performer. I’m a very talented performer because of timing, because of comedy because of wit, because of the way that I know how to…
As Hannah Gadsby… we all adore Hannah Gadsby, bow down to Hannah Gadsby, says, “Very frankly, I know how to manipulate an audience.” And that is what you’re doing when you’re standing there by yourself. You’re manipulating them to feel a certain way at a certain time and then suddenly, yanking them a different way and now making them something else.
I realized that overtime, it wasn’t instantaneous like “This is what I should be doing;” but I realized overtime that that was where I really excelled as a performer and also as a writer. Some of my best writing is autobiographical monologue. I’m very proud of this new play that is about my family that has other people in it. I knew this is what I do well and so that is what I’m going to keep doing.
I believe that the reason I have subsequently booked other work professionally that I didn’t write or create is because someone somewhere, whether it was a casting director, or a fellow actor who then recommended me to a casting director, or it was a director, it’s because people have seen my work on the stage. So I’m hoping to now be at the nexus where my writing, my autobiographical writing, it’s not all solo I’d say, my autobiographical writing is going to get me more acting work in theater, film, and television and then also… and this is a particularly new phenomenon that my work on television in The Politician specifically is getting theaters who were not necessarily interested in producing my plays last season or the season before suddenly now are like, “Oh, hmm! We would like to consider that play that you’ve sent us four times.”
I’m happy to write that way and use that new notoriety even though the plays are the same as they were, right, to get my work seen for–
Emily: I’d ride the hell out of that wave just… yes.
Kyle: Yes, do it.
Emily: I have a question for you as someone who has already said that you want to very much straightforwardly be called not just “the disabled actor” but “an actor.” Although, you will obviously acknowledge that disability is part of who you are and that calling yourself a disabled actor is definitely an accurate statement, but what is your take on the big controversy around whether only disabled people should play disabled characters?
Because, for example, you mentioned Artie from Glee before and on the one hand, I remember being excited to see Artie on Glee because, “Oh, there’s a wheelchair user as a character.” But on the other hand I was super frustrated when I learned early on that… I think it’s Kevin McHale wasn’t a wheelchair user in real life and so I was frustrated by that.
I know that it’s maybe a bit challenging to talk about because you have the obvious bias of being someone who’s disabled and also an actor, but I’m very interested to hear your take on the controversy.
RH: Right. I mean I don’t understand why it’s a controversy in this time. In the year 2019, it should not be a controversy, no one should… they just shouldn’t. Disabled characters should not be played by non-disabled actors today. Because today there are disabled actors who are not getting work and who are not being considered for other opportunities; and so it should… you are correct that it is complicated.
Let me go back in time because first of all, let’s praise Ryan Murphy and Ryan Murphy Productions because look at where we are now versus where we were. They’ve written a character with cerebral palsy and said, “We only want to see people with cerebral palsy,” and I got the part because of that active, deliberate… what word am I … It was a deliberate effort that they made to be inclusive in the right way. That was also Glee, ten years ago was a Ryan Murphy show. It was.
RH: I loved it and I went to all the concerts. I went to the live concerts and I was absolutely, literally obsessed with it. I also, because I wasn’t yet a professional actor, was not as in tune with the idea that this was not correct that the character of Artie should have been played by a disabled actor. I didn’t really register that. So I was also, like you, Emily, thrilled to see a wheelchair user on television. The moment that I became upset was the first time that he, in a dream sequence, got out of his chair…
Emily: Was that The Safety Dance?
RH: I don’t remember what song it was, or what–
Emily: I actually remember pretty clearly when he got up and started dancing because I was also upset at that exact moment.
Kyle: Oh my god.
RH: I was completely enraged, but I had not previously been enraged. Prior to that, I was like, “How fabulous, look at him. Love this actor. Love his character. Love the story. Wonderful. Yes, we exist in high school. Hooray!” and then I became enraged when he stood up out of his chair in a dream sequence because I don’t know about the two of you, and frankly, whenever I’ve mentioned this anecdote in… it’s not often and I’m very grateful I want to say, to be a guest on a podcast with two disabled individuals because I can now actually ask you this question. I don’t dream of not being disa– like when I go to sleep and I dream or I’m daydreaming, I do magically not have a walker, I suddenly, I’m not disabled.
It’s like, “To me, that’s completely absurd because that what I…” Literally, when I’ve known every single day of my life since I had consciousness. You know what I mean?
RH: I recognize that there are people in certain parts of the country who are raised by certain types of parents who, for better or worse, wish that they were not disabled, pity themselves, are pitied by other people or the people who love them, people around them. That exists in America today and the world today, so it is possible that there are individuals who are in wheelchairs who would dream of being out of them and doing a dance number, but that was just never me.
If I was going to do a dance number in a musical, and you know that I have dreamed up many of them, the walker was always going to be at the center of it. It was going to be a big moment. There would be a kick line and I wouldn’t be kicking in the kick line, or I’d be doing something fabulous where they would lift me in the air and I’d have all this wonderfully…
That’s what I dream about, but it’s not to erase me and the part of my identity. I’m curious, have you fantasized about not being disabled?
Emily: Never. Oh my god. Kyle and I have–
Emily: — I’m sorry. I just realized I’m about to speak for you, but I think you’ll–
Emily: — agree.
Kyle: Go ahead. I’ll say my piece.
Emily: It would be super great if we could take a pill that would cure the pain, the daily chronic pain that comes with being disabled, but never actually curing ourselves. I personally cannot imagine any part of my life without my wheelchair. It’s funny because in the very few dreams that I’ve had where I’m not in my wheelchair for whatever reason and have somehow been walking, my feet are heavy like giant bags of sand are attached to them and I can barely move them.
I feel like that must be my unconscious mind being like, “Are you kidding me? This is not realistic. Stop that.”
So yes, I have no fantasies of not a wheelchair-using Emily; just fantasies of maybe people not being such jerks about it.
RH: That’s not us.
Emily: Yes, that’s not us at all.
RH: That’s the world.
Kyle: In my dreams I’m constantly doing things that I can’t do, like I’m riding a bike, but in my dream, I know that this isn’t right. You know what I mean? How am I doing this? Because I’m definitely still disabled in my dream, but as far as fantasies of being non-disabled, I don’t know. Sometimes I wake up and I’m like, “This sucks,” but then I’m like, “Not really. I’m good.”
RH: What I will say is that I don’t publicly not use my walker a lot, but I am able to walk without the walker, like in my own apartment. When I become very comfortable in a space, I’m able to park the walker somewhere and just walk around and I hold on to things for support. But there are these moments when I catch myself in a mirror when I don’t have the walker and I don’t look the way that I think I look in my brain.
I always think in my brain that I look straighter than I actually am. There was even a caricature done very recently of me, I did a reprogram, it’s at Joe’s Pub. But it’s a caricature and so things are exaggerated in the caricature, but in the caricature Ryan, his legs are not straight and that is fascinating to me. If I were to look at a photo of me in the same set, I know that would be true and that the artist was just drawing accurately.
I love the image that was created. I mean I was thrilled, but it’s very interesting to see my knee not… I don’t know, it’s at an angle. It’s very interesting for me to see that in a drawing because that is what the world sees. Sometimes in my brain I trick myself into thinking that I look more suave and steady than I actually–
Kyle: I do that all the time. When I say I don’t see myself as disabled, I mean that very literally. When I see myself on camera or a picture of myself, I’m like, “Who the hell is that?” I have that exact same thing going on with me.
Emily: I definitely have these moments where… so, I have contractures in both of my arms so they don’t straighten past 90 degrees at the elbow. For me, it’s just natural. I make a weird movement when I’m reaching for something across the table because I can’t extend my arm all the way, so my elbow goes up in the air.
Sometimes if I can see myself or a reflection while I’m doing it, I’m like, “That looks so weird.” It’s just a very, very strange thing to see yourself reflecting back at yourself like that. I guess that’s why having non-disabled people play disabled people has always been such a challenge for me because there are just certain mannerisms that, for the most part, you can’t master if that’s not your everyday life.
RH: Because I’m also not thinking about it now.
Emily: Right, you don’t have to think about it, it’s just when you are.
Kyle: Yes, that’s the big thing.
RH: It’s just like, “Oh, I did that with my hands? Interesting. Okay.”
Also, in the caricature my hands are waving. I talk with my hands all the time. My family always does, that’s just our family. We’re Lebanese American family. We’re always like gesture, gesture, gesture. My gestures just look different than other people’s gestures, but that’s…
Anyway, I think it’s a very poor taste these days in 2019 to cast a non-disabled actor in a disabled role. I just think it completely is. People are still doing it. Hollywood is still doing it. Theater is still doing it.
Emily: All the time.
RH: All the time. When I see it, especially on the stage, because I’m pretty in touch with the New York theater community, just the idea of like, “Was a disabled actor ever considered for that part that is disabled?”
Maybe they don’t say the word, but that is the truth of the character. “Why? It wasn’t? Interesting. Hmm.”
That makes me… yes, especially in theater where I feel like they should know better than Hollywood. They do not have the problem of, “We need to sell tickets,” that Hollywood necessarily has.
Emily: Although there is the problem of lack of accessible theaters. I think that because theaters are so old… I’m not an actor, but I have heard that there’s issues with a lot of older theaters not even having accessible backstage areas.
RH: You’re not wrong. It’s correct.
Emily: I don’t think it’s an excuse. I think it’s an excuse that you would be given, but I mean we’re all about authenticity here so we’re going to keep promoting the people who are keeping it real and doing it right.
Kyle: Speaking of promoting, since we’re about to wind down, do you mind just promoting yourself. Just go all out man.
RH: I’m ready to do that. I remember when I talked to you about the little theater company that almost did The Parent Trap but then didn’t.
RH: That was called the Haddad Theater. I have created a solo show. It’s not a solo play, it’s a cabaret about that called Falling For Make-Believe, and it is going to be Under the Radar Festival at the Public Theater in Joe’s Pub for four performances, January 8th, 12th, 16th, and 17th, 2020. I hope that you all come.
Disability is not a primary focus, but there is certainly a moment. There is a scene in which disability is a theater artist is called into question for me at a young age. It’s a very lighthearted show that is very funny, filled with show tunes, all show tunes, and it will make you cry at the end because that’s just what I do.
I know how manipulate an audience, but it’s a tribute to my family because it’s not that they just put on plays in the backyard for a few minutes, no. They did it from the time I was five until the time I was 13. That’s eight years, and we did ten shows in eight years. The final four were literally on a literal stage of our community center. People would come and they’d pay a dollar and they would see us put on the plays.
Emily: Oh my god.
RH: This is sort of my–
Kyle: Your family is amazing.
RH: They’re extraordinary. Just some highlights. In 1998 we did a backyard version of Brandon’s Cinderella–
Emily: Stop it.
RH: — with no songs except for the song Falling In Love With Love, which is not even from Cinderella. They’ve put it into the movie. That is why the cabaret is called Falling For Make-Believe from that song, that Rodgers and Hart’s song. I played the prince opposite my 48 year old lesbian aunt at the time, Cinderella, which is just perfect casting I found.
Then later in time, our final two shows when I was 13, both of them, I wasn’t out as a gay person yet, but I might as well have been because we did an adaptation of All About Eve called All About Ed in which I played the title role. We did an adaptation of Annie called Andy in which I played the title role.
Kyle: Oh my god.
RH: There are kinds of stories from this eight-year period, this 10-show period and I conjure all of these wonderful, zany, wacky family members who not only said like, “We’ll do it once,” but they literally did it 10 times. None of them had any ambition or interest in being performers, but they knew that I needed some outlet and that they could provide it for me in this way; and they did it.
These are memories that have lasted certainly my whole life, but for many of them they’ve also been memories that we talk about. When family members are older and not as healthy as they used to be, we sit down and when we’re talking about the past those plays always come up. I used to think they were only memories that belong to me, but I realized now that they belong to the whole family.
This is my gift to them and it’s very enjoyable. We did it for one performance at Joe’s Pub last year and within a week, I had the offer to do Under the Radar because it was such a big success. Even the waiters and waitresses, the servers were crying, I’m told.
So I hope everyone will come. Tickets are somewhat affordable. There is a small food and beverage minimum at Joe’s Pub, but it is certainly one of the more affordable cabaret venues in the city. It is part of Under the Radar at the Public Theater, January 8th, 12th, 16th, and 17th, Falling for Make-Believe. I have to sell 180 seats four times, so please come.
Emily: Well Kyle and I will buy two tickets.
Kyle: We will definitely help.
Emily: We’re going to be there 100%. I’m bringing my boyfriend. You should probably tell your girlfriend to fly in.
Kyle: She’s– [0:46:43 crosstalk] fly in all the way just to see.
RH: No, she doesn’t have to fly in for this. Oh gosh no, please don’t do that. If she flies in it should be for you and only you. I also wanted to say every time I see fellow disabled friends who are couples, it gives me, a perpetually single person, great hope in the world for… and especially long, very long term relationships because I know… I don’t know, Kyle, how long you’ve been together but I know that Emily, it’s been a long time, right?
Emily: It has.
RH: That just makes me feel like he’s out there and I’ll find him sometime.
Emily: We can totally make this a personal ad for you–
Kyle: He is out there.
Emily: — right now.
Kyle: He is.
RH: I mean I–
Kyle: Yes, I mean just link this in your bios.
RH: Sure. Everywhere you look, everywhere, that was almost quoting full house. I’m not going to finish…
Emily: How could you not want to date Ryan everybody?
RH: No, I just want to know–
Emily: Unintentionally quote– [0:48:04 crosstalk].
RH: I don’t know. It’s not like, “Dear God…” I’m not trying to inspiration for my friends because that’s not it, but as a disabled person to see you both in happy, committed relationships that have gone on for a while with beautiful people makes me very happy. I look forward to joining the club whenever I get admitted to the club.
Emily: Everyone do me a favor and marry Ryan please. I would if I was a man and also gay.
Kyle: Yes, line up. I would if I were single and also gay. If we could do it, so can you, other people listening to this.
RH: Thank you and good night. No. My plug was longer than the whole podcast.
Emily: No, it’s fine.
RH: All right.
Emily: We had such a good time having you on. It’s funny, we usually, at the end of our episode, do a final takeaway but it’s hard to even pick one thing. I mean if you could say one thing to our listeners that you want them to take away from this, what would it be? Not pressure or anything.
RH: From this 50 minutes that we just did?
Emily: Yes. We always like to have a “too long, don’t read” even though it’s at the end then you have to listen to the whole thing before you get it.
RH: Right. Takeaway would be coming to theatres soon, produced by Emily starring Kyle and Ryan, The Parent Trap another remake for this new generation of folks, and also the butter popcorn is the only popcorn. Thank you.
Emily: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Kyle: I don’t even have a final takeaway except for, “Everyone, go follow Ryan.”
Emily: Wait, no. Where can we follow you?
Kyle: He is the best.
RH: Thank you.
Emily: You guys, all the social medias.
RH: Thank you. Instagram, @ryanjhaddad, at R-Y-A-N-J-H-A, D as in dog, D as in dog, A as in apple, D as in dog.
Emily: We enjoyed that.
RH: I worked in a customer service job for a long time. When I had to give people my email over the phone, you know that’s how I did it. @ryanjhaddad on Instagram and Twitter. I don’t have a public Facebook page yet. You can follow me on my personal Facebook page, but I don’t post everything to be visible to followers on Facebook.
If we’ve never met before and we have too many degrees of separation, I’m not going to accept your friend request on Facebook. It’s just I can’t do that. I love you all and thank you for listening, but I do encourage you to go follow me on Instagram and Twitter, especially Twitter because it’s really hard to get followers on Twitter. I don’t know what to do when I need to do to be a more popular tweeter.
Emily: I have the opposite problem. I can’t grow my followers on Instagram, but Twitter I seemed to have figured it out. Maybe we need to exchange strategies here.
RH: Sounds amazing. I look forward to our strategies. Actually, I wonder if we will record that for a future episode?
Emily: Perhaps we will.
RH: How to be a beautiful business disabled …
Kyle: A beautiful business disable [0:51:53 inaudible].I’ll also incorporate it. Ryan, thank you so much for your time–
Emily: We had the best time. This was fabulous
Kyle: We appreciate it so, so much.
RH: As you know, I’m not bad at talking. My last request is going to be we need to meet in real life.
Emily: Oh my god, yes.
RH: …and proper.
Emily: We’re going to do that ASAP if you’re not too famous to hang out with us.
RH: I’m not. I’m begging to hang out with you. I’m begging.
Emily: When we plan, everyone will be jealous.
Kyle: We’ll make that happen.
RH: Yes, it will. We will put it on Insta–
Kyle: It’ll get you a whole ton of Twitter followers.
RH: We’re just going to put it on platforms, across all platforms.
Emily: We’re only hanging out for the followers.
Kyle: Hell yes.
RH: I’m hanging out for the hugs.
Emily: We think you’re great.
Kyle: You are so wholesome.
RH: Wholesome? You have not seen my work. If you think–
Kyle: I’m talking strictly about this, right here.
Emily: These 50 minutes. We look forward to seeing non-wholesome Ryan very soon.
RH: Okay. Under the Radar Ryan in January is wholesome Ryan. There is nothing non-wholesome in that show, but it’s because it’s a gift to all the family members.
Kyle: That’s fair enough.
RH: I didn’t want to hurt them by talking about nudity, but I do that in plenty of other works.
Emily: You’re fabulous.
RH: Love to both of you so much.
Emily: Thank you for being on the show. On that note, we’re going to say, thanks for listening everyone.
Kyle: Might we say, “You look great today.”
Kyle: Thanks for listening.