Change Makers: A Podcast from APH

Representation in the Media

September 03, 2020 American Printing House Episode 14
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Representation in the Media
Chapters
Change Makers: A Podcast from APH
Representation in the Media
Sep 03, 2020 Episode 14
American Printing House

At APH we often say "the future belongs to everyone." We mean it. We also think that part of our journey to get there has to do with changing how people see people with disabilities. In today's episode of Change Makers we talk about why representation in the media is so important. We talk with Bree Klauser who stars in Audible's new series Phreaks, and Apple TV+'s SEE. We also talk with Joe Strechay who's been a blindness consultant on shows like Netflix's Daredevil, and Apple TV +'s SEE.

GUESTS:
Bree Klauser - Actress
Joe Strechay - Producer and Blindness Consultant

LINKS:
breeklauser.com

Show Notes Transcript

At APH we often say "the future belongs to everyone." We mean it. We also think that part of our journey to get there has to do with changing how people see people with disabilities. In today's episode of Change Makers we talk about why representation in the media is so important. We talk with Bree Klauser who stars in Audible's new series Phreaks, and Apple TV+'s SEE. We also talk with Joe Strechay who's been a blindness consultant on shows like Netflix's Daredevil, and Apple TV +'s SEE.

GUESTS:
Bree Klauser - Actress
Joe Strechay - Producer and Blindness Consultant

LINKS:
breeklauser.com

Jack Fox:

Welcome to Change Makers, a podcast from APH. We're talking to people from around the world who are creating positive change in the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired. Here's your host.

Jonathan Wahl:

Welcome back to Change Makers, my name is Jonathan Wahl. Today we're talking about representation in the media, specifically how people with disabilities are portrayed over the years. We've seen this done well and also really poorly. Thankfully, there have been some great steps forward in positive in real representation. This means not only showing people with disabilities as capable and strong, but also casting people with disabilities. Today we have two exciting guests. Joe Stretchay is a Producer and Blindness Consultant who's worked with companies like Apple TV +, Netflix, and Scholastic to name a few. He works to ensure people with disabilities are properly represented. But first, actress Bree K lauser is here to talk about s tarring in a brand new audible series Phreaks and also her r oll in SEE, a new show from A pple T V +. Bree thank you so much for being on Change Makers.

Bree Klauser:

Thank you so much, Jonathan . I'm so happy to be here today.

Jonathan Wahl:

Bree, can you tell me a little bit about your acting journey and just how you got to where you are today?

Bree Klauser:

Of course. So I was into music and performing arts from a very young age. I was that kid who would never stop singing and my mother took me to my first Broadway show when I was six. It was Les Miserables, which is, you know, very , uh, heavy for a six year old, all the prostitutes and tuberculosis, but I was intoxicated with it and I wanted to be up on the stage. So that's what I thought I wanted to do. So I pursued singing lessons, acting, lessons, dance classes. My mother would bring me around to auditions for community plays and then eventually projects in the city. At the same time I was studying voice and learning classical technique, jazz ,musical theater, pop. And I went to college to get my degree in acting from Brooklyn college. I got a BFA at the same time. I was studying through an ex boyfriend of mine. I was introduced to the late metropolitan opera tenor Francisco Casanova. Unfortunately he just passed away this past year. I miss him very much. I was student of his for nine years. So I got my degree. And for awhile I was pursuing music a little bit more. I had a music project with my partner and we called it Bree and the Whatevers. We released a music video back in 2016, all the while I was performing here in New York in the downtown theater scene. And then around 2018, I kind of made a transition to focus a little bit more on, on camera work. And that is when I got the opportunity to send in a tape to audition for SEE and I booked it without even meeting anyone. I sent in two tapes and they said that I was meant for the role.

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I went out to Vancouver in fall of 2018 to shoot SEE with my first onscreen role in this huge world building project with Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard. And so that was in 2018 leading into 2019. And I also got involved in voice acting after college. I started taking some classes in voice acting and doing, you know , smaller projects here and there auditioning for commercials. And a friend actually had told me that through, I guess, the American Foundation for the Blind, that they were looking for a blind or low vision actress to play this role of Emma in this new Audible original series called Phreaks. And so I recorded this audition right here in my home with my boyfriend and I booked that role. And I, it last summer I recorded Phreaks at Audible Studios and that , um, that pretty much brings you up to today.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thank you so much. It's so great to learn about all of your different roles. Were there any perception hurdles, or anything you had to overcome getting into the industry at all?

Bree Klauser:

Oh, absolutely. For years I wouldn't even identify with my disability. I am legally blind. I was born with a condition called achromatopsia but I am on the high partial scale of low vision. So I don't use a cane and I don't have a guide dog. So I don't really have any of the classic identifiers besides maybe wearing some glasses outside. And I wear a tinted contact lenses that kind of make my eyes a deep, deep Brown with like Amber tones. So , uh, I would go to auditions and unless it was absolutely necessary unless, you know, they were going to make me cold read on the spot and I needed a enlarge script or I needed to decide ahead of time. I wouldn't disclose my disability in fear of being discriminated against or thinking that I wasn't capable to do the job.

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I was very fortunate in my acting conservatory that , uh , I was never discriminated against with my disability and they're all very accommodating with all the learning. But , um, if, if I ever did in an audition or even after booking a job, have to disclose my disability, I would never want to use the word legally blind because I feel like there's so many stigmas and stereotypes that are tied to the word blind. Like the second I say , legally blind, they assumed it's like lights out. You don't know how to get around by yourself , all these negative stereotypes. Well , we know in the blindness community that we are independent, we are capable and that low vision legal blindness is a wide spectrum. And I think I've heard that like 90, 90% of people who are legally blind have some kind of vision or light perception that we just live in this world of darkness is , you know , a whole misconception. So I, even today I find myself shying away from the word legally blind, even though I am, I am over the 2200 limit after a correction. So , um, I think that that is how it goes as far as stigmas and even still today. I do, I do worry about being typecast and only blind roles where right now my real journey is to first accurately represent people who are low vision and blind. And then hopefully this industry over time becomes more open minded to call in people with disabilities, regardless of whether the character description says anything about them having a disability.

Jonathan Wahl:

Yeah. That's, that's great. And I know you've already been just a role model for a lot of people in, in, in your role . So we have loved following your career already. You already talked about your new exciting project Phreaks a little bit, the Audible Original that's just been released. Can you tell me more about the premise of Phreaks?

Bree Klauser:

Sure. So Phreaks takes place in the 1970s, just as the end of the Vietnam War going on ,Nixon in office and Watergate. So it's titled as a period drama. I like to describe it as historical fiction , because there was this group of phone hackers, almost like the first hackers and they were called the Phreaks. So the story follows my character, Emma Gable, who is a 15 year old blind girl living in a little town in upstate New York, who is isolated to a sense in her community. She's very much a child of the seventies in that she is rebellious and wants to make a change, but you know, she's introverted. So she's not able to really find her voice until she finds this community with the phone freaks and when, and when she meets these people, it's , it's very similar to, I would like to say the way a low vision blind people connect on the internet these days and find their community and then make meetup groups.

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So I feel like she's very relatable to both low vision and non-disabled audiences because , I'm a kid of the nineties. I grew up in nineties and there was a big seventies revival in the nineties. So I was like Daria of the seventies. And I brought a lot of that into the role . So she's got a little bit of Daria , a little bit of Juno . So the way that she looks at things is very matter of fact, very deadpan kind of blunt humor, but she still has this great emotional life and everything is just kind of right under the surface with her. And we get to see her experience that through these episodes, all these traumatic things happen and what it's like building these friendships, you know , discovering this whole new world that she didn't know about for all her life.

Jonathan Wahl:

What was it like to be a part of the project and get to go to the Audible Studios? Any highlights from your recording time?

Bree Klauser:

Yeah, it was really cool. Uh, I would go out to the audible studios in Newark, which is a really, really nice building. Everyone was really friendly state of the art recording studio. They were really great with accommodations and as far as , uh, being able to work, cause I do read large print text . So within five minutes, me and the studio engineer were able to figure out, okay, we're going to use this standing desk and put the iPad on a stand and put, put it as close to the mic as possible. And that was it, no fuss, no muss. We recorded this around this time last year. And it bled over a little bit into October. I would say it was when we were doing the last pickups of the project, but it's all done pretty quickly. And unlike stage and screen, you don't necessarily go in there memorizing the text.

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So it was a different kind of process, especially as the low vision person I'm used to having to memorize things really quickly. And when you do that, you lose a little bit of the spontaneity. So I really loved discovering the text for the first time with a director. And a lot of the time I was reading with a reader and not the actual actor that you hear on the recording. Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet Christian Slater and Carrie Coon and Ben McKenzie and Justice Smith. I really would love to meet them. I love if a this cast ever gets a premiere or a zoom party, that'd be so much fun, but I would read, read with reader and we would enact those scenes. Um , there were one or two other characters I did get to do live reads with, and that was really fun to have the other actor to bounce off of. I learned a lot of new skills that I had never done before. Even though I had done voiceover, they were primarily for animation and commercials with this. It is, it is an audio play, but I would say it's more like an audio cinematic experience. So you're using your whole body, even though everything's just coming out in your voice and your little tricks to make the expressions come out the way you need them to like the director would say since Emma's very shy and you know, a lot of things that she would say maybe to ourselves , she would look down at her feet. And even as I looked down at my feet, you can tell the difference in the inflection. Or if I'm talking to someone across the room, you would go off axis a little bit and you know, a projector voice out this way. I think the hardest thing for me to learn was , uh , not be so loud and don't talk so fast. So , but I feel like Shaina Feinberg is an amazing award winning director. And I feel like from, from the very start, she gave me all the tools I needed to succeed at this

Jonathan Wahl:

Audio podcasts , storytelling. It's all so popular right now for someone who's, you know, looking for the next thing to listen to. Why, why do you think they should give Phreaks a shot and listen to that next?

Bree Klauser:

Oh my goodness. So I, I actually just started listening to it for the first and this is like the first time I'm revisiting it in almost a year. So I listened to episode one and two last night and it is so immersive. Like, it really is like a cinematic experience for your ears. It's not just talking heads. I really was transported to this other world. And I really, you know , in my mind visualized what this might look like, but I feel like for, especially for a low vision or blind audience, you don't get anything else like this. I mean, there's some great audio description out there for TV, but this nothing is left out the soundscape . And forgive me. I wish I knew who the sound designer for this was, but it's so tactile that you just, you feel everything in sound and the performances, all of the emotion that you would maybe see on someone's face or with a gesture you hear in their voice.

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I think Carrie Coon who plays my mother Dorothea, she does this amazing job of portraying this woman who is suffering from an illness and , and portraying this with only her voice and with the sound of her breathing and her coughing and wheezing. It's so heart wrenching, but the series is also really funny because Matt Derby is a really funny comedy writer. And I loved as, as a improv comedian myself, I loved swinging out those dead pan zingers , like, "Oh, you know what , me just switchblades and chlamydia all the time." Like, I love that. Yeah. She's just she's. So, and that I was like, Oh yeah, that's just me. That's right. I can bring that part of me to Emma. Uh, so yeah, it's, it's a really clever writing and, and it's edited in a way that it just , um , it really , uh, is really well paced. This isn't the true podcast. This is, you know, something to listen to you're you're on the go or cleaning your house, doing your dishes, something that's really engaging. Cause otherwise you might miss something because there's just so much detail in this world.

Jonathan Wahl:

I've listened to the preview, the audio preview, and it is very engaging just the preview, so I'm excited to listen to the whole thing.

Bree Klauser:

Excellent.

Jonathan Wahl:

This is not your first main role. You mentioned also being a cast member of SEE with Apple TV +. Oftentimes when someone with a disability has a role on a big production, they play someone with a disability. They don't get to be the hero or the lover or the fighter. What is it like in both of these roles to get to be more than just the person playing the disability, but to be the warrior, to be the nerdy geek on the phone, playing that kind of a role.

Bree Klauser:

Excellent. Um, well, first of all, it's like, finally I get to do my job. I get to make a three dimensional person. And secondly, it's empowering. Um, as Matal, I was a warrior and a presale page amongst as she , and she wasn't the blind one. She was in a world where everyone is blind. So she was just like everyone else. Her disability was not her defining factor, her, her bravery and her, her extra sensory ability to feel emotions. These are her things that define her. And when , when we see her and , um, you know, what I've heard from people who have watched the show, even though , uh , Matal is , you know, a smaller supporting character in this ensemble cast, people have said that, Oh, I really liked your character. I wish I got to see more of her. Um, cause I really felt for her when, when she was, when she was killed off, because , because , um, because she is a three dimensional character and all the blind characters in this world are three dimensional and not defined by the disability and Emma on PHreaks. She is all three. She i , a hero, a fighter and a lover. She is, she is, she is the hero of the story. She helps take down this big evil company as we're going to find out, but no boilers, but she does something huge with the freaks. Um, they are real revolutionaries, like the revolutionaries of the seventies, sixties, civil rights. She does something huge. And, you know, yeah , she's a fighter. She is, she is not one to take things laying down. Uh, even though she is introverted, she does find her voice and always speaks up for what she thinks is right. And she even has a love interest, which like we never get to see, I mean, as a blind person and as a character actress, I never get the play the love interest and to, you know, be opposite of, you know, one of the hottest young actors in Hollywood justice Smith. Uh , that's, that's pretty cool. And I, I, you know, I, I frankly think in my honest opinion, after listening to that first scene, I do with him at the end of episode one, and remember I was never in the room with him yet, the way the performances came together, I really felt like my character and his character had a lot of chemistry. And that's really exciting for me as someone who never gets to play someone who has a romantic interest. So it's so empowering to finally get to do this.

Jonathan Wahl:

Why is it important for there to be real representation in Hollywood and in , in the media,

Bree Klauser:

Two reasons, one nowadays, people want to see themselves in stories and in media, on TV, in, in movies , uh , we're way past the day where we just see the stereotypical, able-bodied, straight white male in every being the center of every story. Um , now we, we see so much more diversity in ethnicity in gender identity and sexual orientation. So disability should logically come next and has begun, but obviously there needs to be more because disabled people, not only do disabled, people want to see themselves on screen, but people who are affected by disability want to see that represented on screen because they may connect to a story more about someone who is blind. If a blind person plays it, because they're seeing the , the authentic experience and they're going to think, Oh, Oh, that's just like my son who is blind, or my , my friend , uh , it helps the experience become more authentic when you have authentic representation.

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Also it stops the perpetuation of stereotypes because when you have a nondisabled actor portraying the of character, they're basically guessing and thinking, Oh, this is a cool acting challenge. And that really, really, really hurts me as a artist with disability, because I truly believe that disability is not a skillset. It is a lived experience, just like anyone's race or gender identity or sexual orientation. That is a lived experience. You can't fake it. And when people do fake it, and I know that there have been many good actors who have won Academy awards for playing disabled, you know, it's you, can't, you can't fake the real thing. And I think audiences today are just way too smart for that. And they, they are hungry for that authentic representation.

Jonathan Wahl:

Yeah. I think one of the things , when I talk to my coworkers, my friends who are blind, it's also so damaging when people assume that someone who's blind, can't navigate a set, or can't be a part that that's going to be a limitation. So they have to hire someone who's sighted because the world still struggles to understand how capable, how smart and how able people with disabilities can be.

Bree Klauser:

Absolutely. And I think that is the thing that maybe is holding visibility back in the area of inclusion diversity. Cause we're seeing strides made in other areas. We still, I mean, we still have a long way to go with race, equality and equity, but right now I think the industry is still hesitant about disability because they still perceive us as weaker as maybe not capable. And also they don't know that trained performers who are professionals who have representation. They don't know that we're out there. The most common thing I'll hear from, from an industry person. When I ask them about a role that they ended up going with a name actor who is non-disabled for a disabled role, they'll say, well, we tried, but we couldn't find it. And like really did you, did you really try? Maybe just try a little bit harder cause we're out there. I find, I find more and more people with disability through online, through sharing stories. People who are actors with different disabilities. Although I would have to say there is , especially with low vision people and blind people it's especially stigmatized because they, because they think that acting is such a visual medium and that you need to like see the other person so clearly to act. And there's like, no, you just need to have a soul to do it.

Jonathan Wahl:

And you have one of those. So we're good .

Bree Klauser:

I like to think I do. Yes.

Jonathan Wahl:

I won't tell anyone differently.

Bree Klauser:

You just need. Yeah. I mean, I don't want to say, see what your heart cause that's, you know what, that's another disability troep and that , um , I , I forgot to mention this. This is also why it is so damaging to not have people with disabilities portray themselves in , in media because then stereotypes are perpetuated because when you have disabled actors on set or in the studio, we can't help but speak up about, you know, if, if something is written in accurately about our lived experience and if you're with a production team, that's worth its salt, like, like SEE or like with Audible's Phreaks, they are going to listen because they want to put out the best product. And for their audience of people who may be disabled or may be affected by disability in their life. And the reason why we're still fighting these battles of race, and equity, and discrimination f or people o f different backgrounds and d isabilities and orientations is because the last century that the media has been around, those stereotypes continue to be perpetuated. So the cycle needs to stop.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thank you. Your passion just came through there. And it was, you know, I wanted to scream. Yes, yes! Go Bree.

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To young actors or actresses out there who have a disability, what do you want them to know? As, as they try to launch themselves into their own career.

Bree Klauser:

First of all, if you truly want to break into acting, whether it's theater, film, voiceover, television, podcasting, anything research, and if you're going to be an actor, please, please get training. Because as I said, the biggest problem facing us is they don't know that people with disabilities, especially blind and low vision actors, they don't know that we are trained and that we are professional or represented. So take an acting class. If you're very serious, think about studying at a conservatory program and, you know, show that you got the skills to pay the bills and not just being like, well, I'm, you know, I'm a token showing up and filling a role because then that , that hurts all of us. If, if, if that's how it comes across. And secondly, if you really do want to make a career out of this, I would first look deep inside yourself and think, is there anything else I can do? Anything else that I'm truly passionate about? Because this world we need, you know , nurses, doctors, teachers, especially blind teachers and educators and people who work with assessable technology. We need people to do that kind of stuff. But if you look at yourself and you say, no, there is nothing else that I was meant to do on this earth besides perform and tell stories, then go for 100%

Jonathan Wahl:

Bree for people who want to listen to Phreaks or follow you online, give, give us all the details of the, where to go.

Bree Klauser:

The Phreaks is available now on Audible. If you're not an Audible member, you can try a 30 day free trial. For people who are already Audible members, Phreaks is available for free. It is a 10 episode series, but it's available all at once. Kind of like when you listen to an audio book, it's just one big package and each episode is a chapter and you can bookmark or binge it all at once. Right now I have the link available on all my sites on social media. You can follow me on Instagram, which I use the most at Bree_Klauser_Official and my website is Breeklauser .com . And the link is in the bio on Instagram. And , um, yeah. And leave a review if you like it, let's get the word out.

Jonathan Wahl:

Perfect. Sounds good. Thank you, Bree so much for everything you do to represent people who are blind or visually impaired or have a disability, in the media. We hope to talk with you again in the future. Thank you so much.

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I'll include a link to Phreaks in the show notes, but if you're searching for it online, it's freaks P H R E A K S. While Bree was in front of the camera on Apple TV +'s SEE, on the other side of the camera was Joe Stretchay, ensuring actors and actresses knew how to best play someone with a visual impairment. Joe, thanks so much for joining me today.

Joe Strechay:

It's a great pleasure to be on with you, Jonathan. Thank you so much for having me.

Jonathan Wahl:

You're welcome. So for people who don't know much about what you do, tell me a little bit about what you do as a consultant for different media companies.

Joe Strechay:

Yeah, I'm a producer and a blindness consultant. So I work with , uh , entertainment and media businesses, and whether it's a production or the, the company , uh, a streaming network , uh , specific to characters who are blind and it could be one character it can be multiple characters and that can be dealing with , uh , the specific to the production working with , uh, the scripts. It could be working with , uh , the different departments, whether the art department as they're designing , uh , sets or when the , or , or the set dressing, which is the objects that will be on the set , um, or props , uh, working in the props department as they're picking what props do utilize , uh , the props. So the difference between set dress and props or props are the things that are actually handled by the actors and utilized in the scenes. So I help with that. And I train actors , uh, around the skills that people who are blind are having used in their everyday life and, and help to create a culture in awareness , uh, among productions about blindness , uh , uh, and also recruiting actors who are blind or low vision for different parts and whether it's through casting , um, but also , uh , uh, making the, the whole process , uh , accessible the production, whether it's the training and , uh, helping to figure out , uh, what will make that process and the production more accessible to those actors with disabilities. So it's , it's, it depends on, on the production, but I've also worked with some , uh, publishing companies around , uh, characters that , uh, in , uh, in children's books , uh , that are blind or stories that they they've been writing , uh , to provide input around that too . So to make sure it's respectful, but also , uh , brings some of that , um, knowledge around what people who are blind or like , uh, from my own point of view, as a person who is blind, but also as a person who has been professionally trained on my graduate work is around blindness. And I've also trained thousands of people who are blind or low vision.

Jonathan Wahl:

You mentioned a publishing company, and I know you've also worked in television shows. Can you just drop a few of the different names and groups that you've worked with. It's pretty impressive and exciting for people to hear.

Joe Strechay:

Thanks, Jonathan. I , yeah. Um, I've worked with a number of shows. I think my first, like some of my early gigs were , uh, like , uh , helped the writer's room on a USA network show called Royal Pains, just for a few episodes , uh , giving input as they were introducing a character who's blind. And then , uh, later , uh , on Netflix , uh , Marvel's Daredevil. I worked first on season one specifically for that show where I worked with scripts and props and set and , uh , the actors and background and such like that. Um, I also worked on the OA on Netflix in a similar fashion , uh, which was a great pleasure. And, and then Apple TV +'s SEE where I'm a co-producer for the show. And I was an associate producer on season one and a great pleasure where I get to work on so many different aspects. And , uh , uh, but also in publishing side of things, I've worked with Scholastic on a few projects, including a book series where they introduced in one book, they introduced , a principal character who is blind called Dragon Masters. It's was a great pleasure to work with , Tracy West the author, and then work with Scholastic. They've been a great partner and friend .

Jonathan Wahl:

And Joe through all of this, you're worked to have blindness properly represented. What's the most important thing you are working to help the media understand as you do that?

Joe Strechay:

That's a great question. I'm really passionate around the portrayal blindness, and it started out , uh, it was a road to figure out what that was, and from my own personal use as I was losing vision earlier in my life watching entertainment portrayals of blindness and wondering, like, is that what I'm supposed to be like? Is this , does this represent me and questioning that? And then my undergraduates around communications and public relations and media, and we had classes on media effects and looking at different groups and how they they travel from and become legitimized in entertainment. And whether it's whether it was characters who are black characters, who are LGBTQ, plus how they navigated through the years and, and how that changed. And, a nd y ou c an look at that and you can see that with o ur disability population.

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I started focusing on it and giving feedback to , and that's how I got involved, but like, I want to make sure that blindness is seen and respected. And , and I, I make sure that I look at the research around the character and , and when they lost their vision and what aspects might be around it, what the world brings besides that and , and how that might cause it to be different. Um, but just making sure that they respect blindness and blindness, isn't just seen as , uh , uh, something that limits people and, and, and a lot of cases of media when you see blindness represented, it's a person in a hospital bed, or a person who needs assistance or, and in a great thing about some of the shows I've worked on, it shows people as independent and successful. And, and , uh, and, and I won't work on shows where they're not portraying blindness in a, in a respectful way and , and bringing that , uh , re realistic point of view, even in science fiction as well. Um, and , and I'm committed to that. And, and the productions I work with and the companies I work with , uh , whether it's Netflix or Apple , uh, believe in that and want to see that true. And , and it's helping the production understand that, like, getting them to understand that blindness is not, there's not one , uh , blindness doesn't come in one, one shade, you know, there are so many different types of liners

Jonathan Wahl:

You hit on something that I think is really important representation. Why is representation so important?

Joe Strechay:

Media representation is key in the media because you want to see yourself in the media, you, and you want to see it done , uh, done right. And authentic representation is, is a process. And getting people, actors who are blind or low vision, the training to be successful and getting them to experience where they can be at the highest , uh, highest level, and also getting them the recognition and noticed, and , and creating those opportunities is so important and making sure that those opportunities are there. And, and, and whether it's in the casting process and making sure that people who are blind or low vision are getting that, that opportunity to audition and the right person for that part is getting the part. Um, I think it's key , you know we're, we're moving along, you know, I can see in our show on Apple TV +, SEE, you know , we may have , Jason Mamon and Alfre Woodard, but we also may be creating the next Jason Momoa or Alfre Woodard who are blind or low vision.

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And I think that's important giving people a platform where they can succeed and show off their talents. When they come to the shows, I work on individuals who are blind or low vision they're hired for their talents and their skills and how they can do the job, but also they're provided a more experience than typical. And they're provided a situation where people will advocate and , uh , and they don't have to do all that if you see, and that's not the case when they go to any other production. So on the day when they go to film, they can just show up and do their job. And that's something different that most persons with disabilities don't experience in the employment world and let alone in entertainment. It's a great pleasure to help impact that at , SEE with AppleTV +. So whether it's in our background or whether it's in our actors in our show. And I think you're just going to see more and more of that in other productions, and you do, and I , I think it's exciting to see what this is us is doing and , um, the politician and other shows,

Jonathan Wahl:

Let's talk a little bit more about SEE. I think one of the cool things about this show that you don't always see, and you mentioned, This Is Us, that's another one that's doing this, but with SEE you have actors and actresses who are blind, who get to be themselves to , you know, they get to play warriors, but they're not playing the blind person they're playing a warrior. They get to be other characters and not just that person with the disability. Tell me a little bit about that and how important that is that we continue to see that happen.

Joe Strechay:

That's a great question. And, and point, you know in SEE, from Apple TV +, when you're seeing the characters, you kind of forget that they're blind, because that's not like, what is so important about the storyline or so important about each character they're warriors, they're, they're villains, they're they're heroes, they're lovers, they're all of these different things where they were pretty much everyone is blind. So like the it's all about the character. It's really about what they're doing in the world. And, and , and what I say at every event I go to, and when I meet people and I talk to people about the show is that in the real world, people who are blind are lovers, they are villains , they're heroes, they're all these things. They're , they're carpenters, mechanics, engineers, and being able to see people in this variety and where this is us, where , uh, you know, that that individual who is a person who is a low vision or legally blind, he gets to show up and do his job and act what he's been trained to do and had experienced doing and what he loves to do, and blindness is part of the character. It's not the whole character. And you're going to see that being changed as of some of our , our show runner from season one left , uh , after season one, because him and his writing partner, John Steinberg, or other one of our other executive producers, started their own show. Another show that they created, and they built , uh , characters into, they brought actors who they knew have disabilities and built characters around them, not around their disability, around those people. So they'll , they'll have characters with disabilities, but it's not around their disability, it's around their talent, their skill, and what they bring to that, that character. And I think that's the big difference, the big impact, you know, when, when you see things like that happening , uh , you're seeing that change in entertainment.

Jonathan Wahl:

It's been so exciting to see that progress, Joe , for people who don't know what SEE's about, can you give us just a little synopsis of the show?

Joe Strechay:

Definitely, the show SEE, for Apple TV + is really a story about a family, but when it comes down to it, you know, it starts off , there's a viral apocalypse somewhere between now and 200 years from now , that kills off the majority of the population on earth. We're down to just a few million people left on earth and all of those individuals emerged blind. And then our show play takes place a few hundred years from that point , uh, after people who have been blind for centuries and they build out civilizations and societies, but, you know, loss of civilization, people have fleed this virus into different environments and loss of skill levels, like technology and infrastructure, but you see the world rebounding, you see, because there's such a small population, you see the earth rebounding, but it's our stories about a family traveling through the world, a mother and a father , uh, trying to protect their twins, who, who are born with sight and , uh, and in a world where , uh , vision is, is probably it's seen as possibly evil or it's this misunderstood. And , uh, and where things have been pretty great. And for centuries , uh , without vision and , uh, people don't know what to think, but these parents are trying to protect their family and they're moving through the world. And that's really what our story is about a family.

Jonathan Wahl:

I love how it kind of makes you rethink vision a little bit , um, flip things on its head. It's, it's a , it's a really interesting premise. Joe , you have, you know, worked on, on some pretty cool shows. So I know you've seen and done some cool things. If you had to pick one or two things, what are some of those moments that just stickout in your career so far?

Joe Strechay:

So in my work with Apple TV +, and with the entertainment and my career, I've had some pretty unique experiences and I've been pretty lucky. Uh , one of those experiences was representing Apple TV + and SEE and an event for Variety where we were in front of at least 50 Emmy voters. Uh, and it was Dan Shots, the show runner season one and myself , uh , who would be representing SEE and , uh, right before us , uh, came Jennifer Anniston and Reese Witherspoon talking about the Morning Show and addressing questions about the issues that the Morning Show addresses and , uh , their portrayals and all of that and what they put into it. And then , uh , we, we got to go, so, you know, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Anniston , and then my buddy Dan. And so it was a pretty trippy experience.

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And we were followed by Octavia Spencer and Reese Witherspoon , uh , talking about Truth Be Told, but in that , that interview, we got to answer similar questions that you're asking and in front of Emmy voters, so helping the world of entertainment to think differently. And I remember , uh, Dan Shots , uh, talking about it a little bit and saying like , uh, the entertainment world, hasn't been open to our populations and persons with disabilities persons who are blind or low vision and, and, and myself saying like, we're , we're coming and we're here. And , and, and talking about that experience and what it was to work on the show and see these talented people get this opportunity. And not because they're blind because they were the best people for the parts. And so that's one experience. And , uh , another one I would throw out there, I was getting to see the success of, of the actors who are blind or low vision and what they brought to the parts, whether it was Marilee Talkington who plays Souter Bax, or Bree Klauser who was playing the Matal , there was Alex , and Donovan and , Jefferson and all these other individuals, actors, Jessica , uh, and so many people that brought their talents to the show and , and they were hired for their talent, their skill. So that was a big thing. And I I'd say the most trippy experience was a experience where I was going to launch for Apple TV + I, in Cupertino , uh , they keynote for Apple where they launched their new products. And we were there representing the shows like the executive producers, myself, and , uh, to the lead actor, principal actors, Jason Momoa, Alfre, Woodard, and all these other actors and producers from other shows. So an event filled with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Anderson, Octavia, Spencer , uh, uh, Oprah Winfrey and all these people,

Jonathan Wahl:

And Joe Stretchay.

Joe Strechay:

Yeah. And Joe Stretchay mixed in there. So when I went in , I was with Sarah Herrlinger who's the head of accessibility for Apple , uh, her and I were walking in together and she's like, what do you want to do? I'm like, I want to meet people. Cause I'm never going to get this opportunity again. So she's like, can we go see Jason Momoa? And I talked to him for a second. She's met him before. So we go over to Jason and his wife, Lisa were telling them, and he's like, Jason's like, what do you want to do? I'm like, I want to meet people. And he's like, who do you want to meet? I'm like everyone. And he's like, well, Oprah is reaching out for your hand right now. And I'm like, what? And I would say that was the most,the biggest , mindblowing situation that I've ever been in.

Jonathan Wahl:

Thanks, Joe. We really appreciate the work you do to have blindness properly represented. So we continue to cheer you on.

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That's it for today's episode of C hange M akers. Be sure to look for ways you can be a Change Maker this week.