File this one under “this shouldn’t be a big deal, but…”
AMC-backed streaming service Sundance Now has given its first ever straight-to-series order to The Chances, a show centered around two best friends: Kate (Shoshannah Stern), who is adjusting to being newly engaged, and Michael (Josh Feldman), who is attempting to move on from his ex-boyfriend. The two characters (and the actors portraying them) happen to be deaf, but just as in real life, that singular trait doesn’t define them.
Stern and Feldman created, wrote and star in the six-episode series, allowing for an authentic portrayal of the deaf community informed by their personal experiences. A premiere date for the series has yet to be announced.
“With our show, we want to introduce the world to deaf characters written by deaf people, who lead intersectional lives that are complicated, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking, but never defined solely by their being deaf,” said Stern and Feldman in a statement. “We’re beyond thrilled to partner with Super Deluxe, Killer Films, and Sundance Now to share our story with the world.”
The Chances debuted as a series of shorts in the 2017 Sundance Film Festival’s Short Form Episodic Showcase, where it immediately struck a chord with fest attendees.
“When we first saw the shorts at the Sundance Film Festival, we instantly fell in love with the chemistry between Shoshannah and Josh,” says Owen Shiflett, VP of Development for Sundance Now. “The show strikes a beautiful balance of being thoughtful, endearing and funny – all at once. Sundance Now’s independent spirit and dedication to championing new voices make it the perfect home for The Chances.”
Stern attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., the only Liberal Arts University for deaf people in the world. She has been seen in popular TV shows such as Weeds, Lie to Me and Jericho, in addition to two scene-stealing appearances on Supernatural, in a role that was written with her in mind.
Feldman also attended Gallaudet University. He is a writer whose work has been featured in online publications, and he has won a Young Playwrights Award from Arena Stage in Washington D.C.
Despite people with disabilities making up almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, characters and actors with disabilities are still significantly underrepresented on television, according to a 2016 study by the Ruderman White Paper, which found that “more than 95% of characters with disabilities are played by able-bodied actors on television. While streaming platforms had a better percentage, they also had a lower overall count of characters with disabilities.”
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