Geri Jewell broke the glass ceiling when Norman Lear cast her in the hit series “The Facts of Life,” becoming the first person with a disability to be cast in a prime-time series and a worldwide role model for millions of people with disabilities. Subsequently she was cast in the Emmy® Award winning HBO series “Deadwood,” earning her Emmy® consideration. Today, Geri continues to make appearances and work as an actress, most recently creating the role of an executive television producer on the hit series “Glee.”
NATAS recently spoke to Jewell regarding her acting career.
NATAS: Between these two highly acclaimed performances, you also appeared in the reoccurring role of Rose on “The Young And The Restless.”
GERI: “I loved playing Rose on Y&R and Lauren Woodland was a sweetheart to work with.”
NATAS: The “Facts” and “Y&R” storylines embraced subject of disability. However, her role in “Deadwood,” was set in a time before disabilities were understood. When a reporter asked her how she mentally prepared for the cruelty your character Jewel endured, what was your answer?
GERI: “Emotionally I was able to relate to Jewel’s abuse, as having dealt with abuse myself in my adult life, and like myself, I played Jewel with a sense of resilience and strength. In fact, in some ways Jewel could kick ass much better than I could!!”
NATAS: Thirty years later, millions of people still remember your groundbreaking performances, but something happened during a visit to Sesame Street that many daytime fans seem to remember most.
GERI: “I thoroughly enjoyed roller-skating with Big Bird, even though in the first take, I went a little too fast, and skated right into him, knocking his head off, and as his head rolled across the stage the cameras stopped rolling. Take two went well after Carol Spiney put his head back on, and assured the children in the audience that Big Bird was fine – just a little headache.”
NATAS: On June 14th, 2013, you were a presenter at the Creative Arts EMMY ®
Awards, and later received an invite from The White House to be a keynote speaker on the subjects of disabilities in the arts.
GERI: “My speech at the White House in June was extremely rewarding, and as much as I enjoyed making the audience laugh, it was also an eye opener. Having been in the entertainment industry since 1978, I have been sent out on less than 25 auditions in over three decades. The frustration is not that I fail to get the roles, the frustration is that for whatever reason; I fail to get the auditions to even have a shot at a role. I do hope this pattern changes in my lifetime.”
NATAS: Would you consider returning to Y&R or another daytime drama as many of her colleagues have in the past?
GERI: “Of course, I would be delighted to return to Y&R as Rose or any other character, in a heartbeat!”
Sesame Street – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRfv0bT3fnE
Sesame Street – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xpt-4hUfpM