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‘Champions,’ ‘The Witcher: Blood Origin,’ ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ Among Ruderman Family Foundation Awardees for Inclusion

Bobby Farrelly’s sports comedy film “Champions” is among the Ruderman Family Foundation’s Seal of Authentic Representation awardees — an award that recognizes productions that practice inclusion and portray authentic representations of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.

Applauded for its decision to open auditions to actors with disabilities, “Champions” is among five productions receiving the award in a list of honorees that includes ABC drama series “The Company You Keep,” Momentum Pictures’ comedy-drama film “Wildflower,” Netflix drama miniseries “All the Light We Cannot See” and Netflix fantasy miniseries “The Witcher: Blood Origin.”

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For a production to be awarded the seal, it must meet two criteria: feature actors with disabilities with at least five lines of dialogue in a speaking role and be in or on the verge of general release. As many as 10 actors with learning disabilities starred alongside Woody Harrelson in “Champions,” with the movie conducting thousands of auditions for actors with disabilities.

Farrelly was previously honored by the Ruderman Family Foundation in 2020 alongside his brother Peter Farrelly with the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion in recognition of their advocacy for the inclusive and authentic representation of people with disabilities in the entertainment industry.

“As a film that displayed an exemplary production-wide commitment to inclusion, ‘Champions’ stands out in embodying both the ongoing need to expand opportunities for actors with disabilities and the progress that the entertainment industry is making in that realm,” Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, said in a statement. “Bobby Farrelly has once again demonstrated the value of opening auditions to people with disabilities. These actors are not seeking any form of preferential treatment in casting calls. But at minimum, they deserve a fair chance to succeed. We are gratified that ‘Champions’ and the other productions recognized with the Seal of Authentic Representation have advanced the cause of inclusion in Hollywood.”

Shaylee Mansfield, a cast member of “The Company You Keep,” said, “Ollie initially appears as a girl who is deaf. However, as the show goes on, she became much more than that — a witty, clever, and intuitive tween challenging stereotypes. Her portrayal shows that everyone, when given the chance, is capable. It was not without open discussions, open hearts from the team, and where my voice truly mattered.”

“Strong, complex, layered characters needed equally strong, complex, and layered actors to play them. What Fran, Lizzie and Amy also brought was kindness, light, and humor. They bonded the other characters on and off screen,” Sophie Holland, casting director for “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” added in a statement. “What felt important to Executive Producer Declan de Barra and myself, and my brilliant team Faye and Frankie, was that we represented the world as it actually is. Too often, people overlook differently-abled actors, and too often we fail to see what beautiful stories they can help us weave — imbuing and enriching it with their own lived experience.”

(Pictured: “Champions”)

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