Deadwood/HBO/2002-2004 (Cerebral Palsy)
Jewel Caulfield (Geri Jewell), disabled woman working at the Gem, a frontier saloon and brothel in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1870s.
Wearing a tattered dress (her only one) Jewel serves as the local’s cook, cleaner and waitress. Albert “Al” Swearengen (Ian McShane), the ruthless owner of Gem, employs Jewel out of pity (though he will never admit it). In her spare time, Jewel enjoys reading books about medicine in the American Civil War.
Some quotes by and about Jewel, the cleaning lady:
Jewel: Goddammit Richardson! Your too fuckin’ ugly to be sneakin’ up on people!
Jewel: I put out cinnamon.
Dan Dority: Where?
Jewel: The meeting table.
Dan Dority: On whose instruction?
Jewel: Cinnamon’s good with peaches.
Dan Dority: Do not put unauthorized cinnamon on the goddamn meeting table! That’s all the fuck we need.
Jewel: Say ‘I’m as nimble as a forest creature.’
Doc Cochran: You’re as nimble as a forest creature.
Jewel: No, say it about yourself.
Doc Cochran: I’m as nimble as a forest creature.
Al Swearengen: What was your purpose at Doc’s?
Jewel: I’m knocked up!
Al Swearengen: Hey Doc, how long were you planning on taking before you told me what the fuck was wrong with Jewel?
Doc Cochran: Nothing, nothing she wasn’t born with.
Al Swearengen: Mmm, I mean, she told me she was knocked up but I assumed that was her gimp sense of humor.
Doc Cochran: She wants me to brace her leg so her dragging it doesn’t drive you crazy.
Al Swearengen: So what’d you tell her?
Doc Cochran: Not to worry about your moods, that you generate those yourself and then you find your excuse for having ’em.
Al Swearengen: Saucy words Doc, good thing you’re handy with the snatch.
Doc Cochran: I had an idea for a boot, just now measured her for it.
Al Swearengen: If you treat her as successfully as you did the minister, she’ll be kicking up her heels in no fucking time.
Doc Cochran: I will leave you now to pursue another excuse.
Note: Geri Jewell appeared on 23 episodes of this cable network western series.When asked how she mentally prepared for the cruelty her character Jewel endured on DEADWOOD, she said, “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!!” Geri Jewell reprised her role as Jewel in the HBO TV presentation Deadwood: The Movie (2019)…,.a fond farewell to one of TV’s greatest shows.
Born Geraldine Ann “Geri” Jewell on September 13, 1956, Geri Jewel was the first disabled actor to be featured in a recurring role (12 episodes) on a prime time TV series. She played Blair’s cousin, Geri Tyler on the comedy FACTS OF LIVE/NBC/1981-1984. Geri also appeared as Rose on 9 episodes of THE YOUNG AND RESTLESS in 2002.
See also: Facts of Life
Speechless/ABC/2016+ (Cerebral Palsy)
J.J. Dimeo (Micah Fowler), disabled 16-year-old teenager with Cerebral Palsy who is confined to a motorized wheelchair. He lives in Newport Beach, California with his mother Maya (Minni Driver), father Jimmy (John Ross Bowie), sister Dylan (Kyla Kennedy), who runs track, and brother Ray (Mason Cook) who likes astronomy.
Unable to use his vocal cords, J.J. communicates with an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device that uses a red laser beam pointer attached to his head that allows him to target a list of letters and words and spell out what he wants to say. He can move his arms, but his fingers are bit stiff. If he gets disgusted with someone and wants to give them the “finger,” he gives them his whole hand instead.
Assisting J.J. is Jennifer (Dina Spybey-Waters), an overly enthusiastic female caregiver who helps voice his concerns. She works for the New Generation Center (“Building opportunity for California’s Youth with Disabilities”). Her high pitched voice sounds like a fairy godmother and J.J. requested that she change a number of students into pumpkins. He even wanted her to say, “Bippity, Boppity, Boo,” but she declined. She was replaced by Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough), the school’s black groundskeeper whom J.J. liked better.
As for J.J.’s mother Maya Dimeo, she is extremely protective and fights and fights to make sure J.J. has a normal life. She refuses to let people refer to him as “crippled.” Maya can be so confrontational the even the local police won’t give her a ticket when she speeds by in her car.
When J.J. arrives at his new school (Lafayette High School) there was no handicapped ramp, except a service ramp at the back of the school used for deliveries. Angry, Maya DiMeo immediately gets up a petition for a handicapped accessible ramp to be built in front of the school.
Before Maya arrived at the school, the staff at Lafayette had a meeting on how to handle her, because word was out that Maya had already ruffled the feathers at other schools, including Lincoln, Woodbridge, Alma Dena, Whitman, Marshall, and Fountain Valley.
Eventually, J.J. settles into his new school and runs for Student Council President. When he first arrived at school, however, his classmates greeted him with a sign that read, “J.J. for President.” But J.J. felt they were patronizing him, so he responded, “Eat … A …Bag …of … (well, you get the point)!”
Note: Micah Fowler who plays the role of J.J. DiMeo has Cerebral Palsy in real life. The series was created by Scott Silveri (Friends), who comes from a family with a special-needs child (and who employs writers who have experience in similar situations).
Breaking Bad/AMC/2008-2013 (Cerebral Palsy)
Walter Flynn White, Jr. (RJ Mitte), teenage son of a high school chemistry teacher with inoperable lung cancer. Unbeknownst to his son, Walter Sr. (Bryan Cranston) used his knowledge of chemistry to manufacture meth to earn money to provide for his family after he dies.
Walter Jr. has Cerebral Palsy. His speech is impaired and he needs the help of crutches when he walks.
Although his father, Walter Sr. has gone over to the dark side as a drug dealer, killer and all around bad guy, Walter Jr. still idolizes his dad, even when he had to return the brand new hot rod he received from his father (who later got his son another car).
When Walter Sr. had to undergo expensive lung surgery, the patient and understanding RJ created a website to raise money for his dad’s treatment.
Note: Actor RJ Mitte has Cerebral Palsy in real life, although not as severe as the character he played. For the part, he had to learn to slur his speech and walk with crutches so he would make his role convincing.
RJ Mitte also appeared on episodes of Switched at Birth/ABC Family(Freeform)/2011-2017 as Campbell Bingman, a pre-med student in a wheelchair who volunteers at the free clinic where deaf teenager Daphne Vasquez is serving her community service hours. She becomes his love interest for a time.
See also: Breaking Bad
IN LIVING COLOR/FOX/1990-94 (Cerebral Palsy)
Clark Bent (Damon Wayans/costar), a black mailroom male who worked for the Daily Glove newspaper whose alter ego was Handi-Man, a physically challenged superhero with gnarled hands who fought the likes of Doctor Naughty (Jim Carrey), who hated the handicapped because he once received a ticket for parking in a handicapped spot.
Handi-man wore a white cap and a handicap-blue costume with a wheelchair logo on his chest. He was occasionally assisted by a dwarfish blonde person called the Tiny Avenger.
After vanquishing the bad guys Handi-man said “Never underestimate the powers of the handicapped.”
FACTS OF LIFE/NBC/1979-88 (Cerebral Palsy)
Geri Tyler (Geri Jewell), disabled cousin of snobbish Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel) who attends Eastland School, an all-female boarding school in Peekskill, New York.
The role of cousin Geri, an aspiring nightclub comic with Cerebral Palsy, was introduced on episode “Cousin Geri” (aired 12/24/80) wherein Blair Warner is embarrassed by her relative’s condition.
In real life, Jewell acknowledged her own handicap and poked-fun of it in her comedy routine with such humorous quips as “Ever notice there are no handicapped people on TV? Name That Handicap?…Bowling For Crutches?…I’ve had some really high bowling scores, only never in my lane” or “I’m not drunk, I’ve got Cerebral Palsy. That’s CP-not to be confused with MD, MS, VD or ET.”
Born prematurely, Geri was diagnosed with CP at 18 months. Her additional loss of hearing forced her to become proficient at lip reading. She also limps when she walks. After many hours of therapy, her palsy has improved from severe to mild.
Geri Jewell’s “Cousin Geri” role represents the first TV performer with a disability to be hired in a recurring role on a prime-time network series.
In an article in Ability magazine about the Media Access Awards Geri confided, “All my life there’s been only one thing that bothered me about having cerebral palsy…Children have always been afraid of me. But since I’ve been on the show (FACTS OF LIFE), whenever I’m walking on a street or I am in a shopping mall, children come over and ask., ‘Aren’t you Cousin Geri’ and we sit and talk.”
Geri Jewell later became a motivational speaker with Milt, Wright & Associates.
Note: Cerebral Palsy is a paralysis resulting from developmental defects in the brain or a trauma to the brain occurring at birth. The chief characteristics are uncontrollable muscle spasms.