Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard have told Sky News they believe their new series See will pave the way for more roles for blind actors on screen.
The drama is set hundreds of years in the future, after a deadly virus has decimated Earth and left those who survived without sight – until Baba Voss, played by Momoa, becomes the father of twins who can see.
While Game Of Thrones and Aquaman star Momoa and mooted 2020 Oscar contender Woodard lead the cast, the ensemble also features several actors who are visually impaired.
Due for release on Friday as one of the flagship shows for the launch of Apple‘s new TV+ streaming service, the show has already opened up the conversation about representation for people with disabilities in TV and film.
Actress Marilee Talkington, who is legally blind and stars in the show alongside Momoa and Woodard, praised Apple for its inclusion of visually impaired actors at the series’ premiere in Los Angeles but said that full representation “across the board” is “long overdue”.
Addressing the issue to Sky News, Momoa said the show is at the “forefront” when it comes to representation on screen.
Woodard, who plays “priest, midwife and kind of spiritual philosopher” Paris, said she understood there were more visually impaired or blind people involved in See “than there have ever been on a production”.
“Hopefully this will create opportunities for blind actors to come on board,” she said. “They need the training, they need the exposure. See is a place that if we stick and we do some seasons, certainly they will be coming more and more into the primary characters, so we’re sort of seeding the ground for that to happen.
“I think something for the world to see is a whole group of people – even though we’re very young in the language of blindness – that blind people are people, they are capable of anything anybody else is capable of, except being able to focus their eyes on something and depend on their eyes.
“So you get to see evil queens be blind and you get to see courageous warriors – and you get to see human beings.”
Both Momoa and Woodard, as well as the other sighted stars, received extensive training with the help of Joe Strechay, a visually impaired blindness consultant who works on entertainment projects.
“For a solid month all we did was do blindness training, not just the primary cast, but all the stunt people, all the background actors,” said Woodard. “We all had to learn the language of how to navigate the world without sight.
“Joe became a very dear friend as well as our blindness coach. There was nothing we couldn’t ask him, because basically you’re a toddler and you’re saying, teach me the language.
“For a month [we had] all kinds of exercises: how to use how to use a stick, how to echolocate, how to use your other senses – smell, taste and touch. To figure your way around a room or a situation that normally you would depend on your eyes to do, and then we had to translate just the glimpse of that new language into how we incorporate it into our acting style.”
Momoa said the show’s stars all learned from the blind and visually impaired actors and advisers on set.
“Absolutely. I mean, we’re actors, so it’s kind of great because we get to study them… I would definitely study Joe all the time. And Joe’s so good that you have to go further because he doesn’t look like he’s blind… I constantly went to him and other cast members. It was great.”
Momoa, who played Dothraki chief Khal Drogo in the first series of Game Of Thrones, says his role in See is his greatest and most challenging yet.
Ahead of its release, comparisons are already being made, but the star is quick to play them down.
“Nothing compares to Game of Thrones,” he says. “To me, it’s one of the greatest shows of recent history. You know, this is first season. There’s so many different worlds… this doesn’t really compare. But personally? This is better for me.
“Drogo really doesn’t say much. He falls in love for a second, then he dies. A lot of people connected with that, it was a great role, but that series is its own realm. This is not that. It’s its own world and it’s beautiful.
“I don’t like comparing the two, the only thing they have in common is I’m in both. But personally, I can do a lot of great… I get to talk, I get to speak English – it’s pretty fun. I get to smile and fall in love, and it lasts more than eight episodes. So I’m pretty excited.”
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As one of the flagship Apple TV+ launch shows, See premieres on Friday alongside the much-hyped The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.
Are TV series and streaming the future for Hollywood?
“I think so,” says Woodard. “I’ll go wherever the story is good. It’s like, you give me a good story, I follow. I think the writer is queen or king, but there’s no putting this genie back in the bottle. So, you know, I think it actually is stepping up TV’s game.
“This will last as long as it lasts before the next innovation happens… Who knows how fast it’s going to go? But for now, this is the going currency.”
See is out on Apple TV+ on Friday