Downton Abbey/ITV/PBS/2010-2015 (Injured Leg)
John Bates (Brendan Coyle), disabled valet who works in Yorkshire, England at Downton Abbey, a country estate run by matriarch Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), her son Robert Crawley (Hugh Bonneville), the 7th Early of Grantham, and his American wife, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern). John replaced Mr. Watson, the abbey’s former valet shortly after the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
John injured his right leg while fighting in the Boer war (with Robert Crowley) and consequently he uses a cane when he walks. At one point, Bates wore a metal leg brace called a “Limp Corrector,” but it caused him too much pain and he discarded it in a pond.
When Robert Crowley hired John as the new valet, he knew Bates was a good and moral man from his wartime days and thought he would be capable of the duties required of the position at Downton Abby, despite his disability.
At first, the existing staff, namely Thomas Barrow (Rob James-Collier) and lady’s maid Sarah O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) try to get rid of Bates. Barrow, the footman at the estate who had hoped to be promoted to valet, resented Bates and consequently referred to him as “Long John Silver.”
The first attempt at ridding Downton Abbey of Bates occurred when Sarah O’Brien knocks John’s cane away when he is standing in a receiving line to greet the Duke of Crowborough. Of course, John falls flat on his face.
Later, Barrow and O’Brien steal various items from the house and frame Bates for the theft. John was even accused of killing his estranged wife, Vera Bates. But in all cases, he was exonerated of the charges.
Eventually, Bates earned the respect of much of the staff such as lady’s maid Anna Smith (Joanne Froggatt), who later marries John Bates, and butler Mr. Carson (Jim Carter).
John Bates served at Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1925.
Note: The grounds of Highclere Castle in Britain were used for the both the interior and exterior of the fictional Downton Abbey.
Grey’s Anatomy/ABC/2005+ (Amputated leg)
Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), physician with a prosthetic left leg who works at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in the City of Seattle, Washington. She is an attending surgeon and became the new chief of pediatric surgery following the death of Dr. Jordon Kenley (John Sloman).
Dr. Robbins graduated from John Hopkins School of Medicine. She was named “Arizona” after the battleship, U.S.S. Arizona because her grandfather served on the Arizona when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and saved 19 men before he drowned. Arizona’s love interest is orthopedic resident Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez).
When traveling on a plane with colleagues, Arizona’s plane crashed and she suffered a severe open fracture to her thighbone. Arizona refused to have her leg amputated despite the possibility of septic infection. But while operating on a patient she crashed and her lesbian partner Callie ordered Dr. Alex to cut off the leg to keep the infection from killing her. Alex performed an above-the-knee amputation (aka trans-femoral amputation).
After her surgery, Arizona underwent extensive physical therapy and was fitted with a prosthesis. To alleviate the phantom pain she feels in her leg, she tries massage, mirror therapy, and biofeedback.
After months of struggling with the aftermath of her amputation, Arizona finally let Callie (who gave the order for her amputation) help her with her aching leg.
Note: To give the appearance of a real leg, a prosthesis was built from a cast of Capshaw’s thigh and then technicians covered the prosthesis with a silicone skin cover matching the skin tones of the actress. While portraying the disabled Arizona, Capshaw attached the prosthetic leg to her knee while her lower leg stuck out behind her which was digitally removed for effect.
See also: Grey’s Anatomy
Dr. John Hamish Watson (Martin Freeman), British physician who shares an upstairs flat at 221B Baker Street in present day London with eccentric genius Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). John walks with a limp and uses a cane.
John went to King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, studied medicine at King’s College, received a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 2004, worked at the Broomfield Hospital Chelmsford and the University College Hospital London, and trained at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital as a British Army doctor.
Later, Watson was deployed to Afghanistan with the Royal Army Medical Corps and was a Captain in the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers until he was shot in the shoulder. His wound left Watson with a psychosomatic limp and an intermittent tremor in his dominant hand. John’s limp disappears in situations requiring him to move quickly.
“Listen, what I said before, John, I meant it. I don’t have friends. I’ve just got one.” ―Sherlock to John H. Watson
Watson accompanies Sherlock Holmes to crime scenes overseen by Detective Inspector Greg LeStrade (Rupert Graves) of Scotland Yard where Holmes uses his uncanny deductive ability to find clues to solve each of his cases.
John records his adventures with Holmes on an Internet Blog which becomes popular with members of Scotland Yard. His blog helps Watson earn a living and inspires a widespread interest of Holmes among the general public and the media.
Watson is adept at firearms (being an excellent marksman), unarmed combat and reading people through facial expressions. Once in a while, John’s observations or remarks inspire Holmes to come up with answer that will solve a crime.
Eventually, Watson marries Mary Morstan whom Watson later learns was a former CIA agent.
Note: The television series was based on the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The series was filmed in Cardiff, Wales, with North Gower Street in London used for exterior shots of Holmes and Watson’s 221B Baker Street residence.
Other TV actors to portray the character of Doctor John H. Watson include:
- Howard Marion-Crawford – Sherlock Holmes/SYN/1954
- David Burke – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes/The Return of Sherlock Holmes/Granada TV/1984-1986
- Edward Hardwicke – The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes/The Memoirs of Sherlock Homes/Granada TV/1986-94
- Lucy Liu (as Dr. Joan H. Watson) – Elementary/CBS/2012-2016+
On the TV crime drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent actress Kathryn Erbe played the part of Alexandra Eames, who was loosely based on the fictional physician Dr. John Watson.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation/CBS/2000-2015 (Legs Amputated)
Dr. Albert “Al” Robbins (Robert David Hall), disabled Chief Medical Examiner at the Las Vegas Police Department. “Doc” Robbins lost his legs when he was hit by a drunk driver as a youth. He uses prosthetic limbs and a crutch to get around. He walks with a limp.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Robbins earned a Masters Degree in Physiology. He began his career as a Coroner in Arlington, Virginia. He now works the graveyard shift for the CSI division of the LVPD. His assistant, David Phillips (David Berman) is often sent into the field to examine corpses before they are transported to his laboratory.
Over the years, Robbins has interacted with supervisors Dr. Gil Grissom (William Peterson), a PH.D. who specialized in insects , and his replacements investigator Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne) and Director D.B. Russell (Ted Danson). In addition, Doc Robbins worked with LVPD Homicide Investigator Captain James “Jim” Brass (Paul Guilfoyle).
Robbins is married 25 years to his wife, Judy (née Rubino), has three children, a Siamese cat, likes coffee, plays guitar, bakes “low taste” vegan pies, is terrified of rats (musophobia), and according to his family tree, is a direct descendant of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody. His mother was a nurse. His twin was stillborn.
Robbins also has a photo collection of dead celebrities who have graced his autopsy table, including rapper Tupac Shakur, and John Entwistle, the bassist for The Who.
Note: The Dr. Robbins character first appeared on episode “Who Are You.” On episode “The Theory of Everything,” Doc Robbins mentions that he suffers from bradycardia and wears a pacemaker.
“If you support diversity and think shows should give a portrayal of what America truly looks like, then performers with disabilities must be included in that equation.” – RD Hall
Born on November 9, 1947 in East Orange, New Jersey, actor Robert David Hall had both legs amputated after suffering burns over 65% of his body, when his car was crushed by an 18-wheeler in 1978. Like his TV character, Hall uses prostheses.
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
HOUSE M.D. (HOUSE)/FOX/2004-2012 (Injured Leg)
Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a drug-addicted, misanthropic medical genius who works at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital in Princeton, New Jersey.
House is the Head of the Department of Diagnostic Medicine, and a board-certified diagnostician with a double specialty of infectious disease and nephrology.
“If I’m in a buttload of pain, I need a buttload of pills.” – Dr. Gregory House
He walks with a cane due to chronic, severe pain in his right leg. He uses Vicodin to manage pain caused by an infarction (muscle death) in his quadricep. His damaged leg was the result of incorrect diagnosis, which leads to his narcotic dependency. When House did not have access to Vicodin, he used other narcotics such as morphine, oxycodone, and methadone, as well as alcohol (when not on duty).
Despite his disability, House is an incredibly talented doctor. He routinely rejects cases that he does not find interesting. As Dr. Gregory House said, “I take maybe 1 in 20 cases. A lot of the people I turn down, end up dying. It’s really a good argument for there being more than one me when you think about it.”
“She’s six! She’s cute, she can’t have flesh-eating bacteria! It’s just wrong! Let’s cure her with sunshine and puppies! Cute kids die of terrible illnesses! Innocent doctors go to jail, and it’s because cowards like you won’t stand up and do what’s required! You can sit around and moan about who’s the bigger weakling. I’m gonna go do my job.” – Dr. Gregory House (yelling at staff)
House refused to acknowledge that he was addicted to pain killers, but eventually he admitted himself to Mayfield Psychiatric Hospital for rehab. When he leaves the facility, his addiction is under control but later he hears that his boss Dr. Lisa Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein), the hospital administrator and Dean of Medicine incurred kidney cancer by taking Vicodin, and his addiction recurs.
NOTE: The House character was inspired by the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, specifically, the fictional crime solving genius Sherlock Holmes. There are many similarities between Holmes and House. They both have the same address of 221b Baker Street and both use deductive reasoning and psychology to solve problems. Their best friend is a physician (Dr. James Wilson for House/Dr. John Watson for Holmes). They both use drugs (House/Vicodin and Holmes/Cocaine). And they both are musically inclined (House plays the piano, the guitar, and the harmonica/Holmes, the violin). The main patient in the pilot episode is named Rebecca Adler after Irene Adler, a character in the first Holmes short story, “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
On the episode “Needle in a Haystack” Dr. House discovers that his parking spot was given to a research physician named Julie Whitner (Wendy Makkena), who used a wheelchair. Irritated, House remarked while he had to actually walk into the hospital on his bad leg, she just had to push a button on her power wheelchair.
To resolve the situation, House accepted a bet that if he could spend one full week in a wheelchair, then he could have his spot back. But an emergency forced House out of the wheelchair, and Whitner won initially until House pushed the issue and got his spot back.
KNOTS LANDING/CBS/1979-93 (Injured Leg)
Peggy (Victoria Ann Lewis), faithful secretary who works for Federal Prosecutor M. “Mack” Patrick MacKenzie (Kevin Dobson) based in Southern California.
Peggy helps Mack out with cases and even gives him advice on how to deal with his family or people in general. The Peggy character appeared on 88 episodes (1984-93) of this prime time soap, including the 1997 reunion movie.
Note: In real life, actress Victoria Ann Lewis has worn a leg brace since her childhood bout with polio.
YOUNG & THE RESTLESS/CBS/1973+ (Injured Leg)
Carol Robbins (Christopher “Chris” Ann Templeton), a handicapped female with a cane who lived in the fictional town of Genoa City.
Templeton (one of the first physically handicapped soap opera stars) was partially crippled due to a case of childhood polio. From 1983-1993 – walking with a post-polio limp – Chris portrayed a positive role model for the physically disabled. Templeton walks about with the aid of a cane and leg brace.
In 2001, Christopher Templeton starred in the Gold Pictures production “Ready, Willing and Able” as Samantha “Sam” Martin, a CIA special agent who is determined to continue her career after she is injured in the line of duty. Triumphing over her physical limitations, Sam proves that she is READY WILLING AND ABLE to eliminate a chemical weapons threat posed by global terrorists.
Templeton’s other movie roles included the role of Diane St. Clair in the TV movie Hostage for a Day (1994) and the role of Marian Burke in the TV Movie Columbo: Butterfly in Shades of Grey (1994).
Christopher also made TV appearances on such TV shows as FRASIER, HILL STREET BLUES and JAKE & THE FATMAN.
Born February 26, 1952 in Lake Forest, Illinois Christopher Anne Templeton died in San Antonio, Texas on February 15, 2011.
THREE STOOGES (Crippled Foot & Disabled Arm/Hands)
Curley (Jerome “Babe” Howard), the zany, bald-headed character who made up a third of the Three Stooges comedy act.
Early in life, Curley was accidentally shot in the ankle. His injury never quite healed and so Curley walked with an exaggerated gate which he utilized for comedy effect in his many film shorts.
Larry Fine, the frizzy-haired member of the Three Stooges was also injured in childhood.
Once, Larry inadvertently was going to drink from a bottle that contained acid. Luckily, his father knocked the bottle from Larry’s hand but some of the acid scalded Larry’s hands. As therapy to loosen up his injured arm, Larry took violin lessons . He later incorporated the violin into his vaudeville act.
STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE/SYN/1993-99 (Amputated Leg)
Nog (Aron Eisenberg), a Ferengi Ensign officer stationed on board the space station Deep Space Nine.
During the 1998 season, Nog was injured in battle and his leg was amputated. After some brooding over the lose of his limb, he returned to active duty wearing an artificial replacement.