Actors Sasha Hardway and David Proud star in Special People, a British comedy about a failed filmmaker who volunteers to teach a group of wheelchair users how to make films. Although they’re both just starting out in their acting careers, David has been in The Secret Diary of a Call Girl and has starred in Desperados, a children’s drama about a wheelchair basketball team, whilst Sasha models and has also appeared in the BBC drama Friends & Crocodiles. Here they talk with View London’s Matthew Turner about disabled actors, future projects and their latest film.
How did you get into acting and how did you get involved in the film?
David Proud (DP):
I was in a TV series called Desperados on CBBC and that was my first big break. From that I managed to get an agent and did a documentary on BBC Three and went straight from that to Special People. I wasn't in the short film version that was filmed in 2005, I just joined it for the feature. But I'm really glad to have done it. It was certainly fun filming it and it's been brilliant coming to Edinburgh and promoting it.
Sasha Hardway (SH):
I found an agent who handled actors and models with disabilities, so I joined her agency. I'd got a few jobs from her before – I did a Stephen Poliakoff film, which was quite a big BBC budget film at the time. It was called Friends & Crocodiles – I got carried by Damian Lewis. But this is the biggest film I've been in so far, like, with the most lines. And I was in an article in the Big Issue about disabled actors and that's how Justin (the director) found me.
Tell us a bit more about the short film. How did that come about?
Well, the whole idea is based around [co-star Robyn Frampton], because she wrote a complaint letter to her council and said there's not enough access and something about TV shows. And they got in contact with 104 Films (the production company owned by the director and producer). So without Robyn venting, it probably wouldn't have come off. It was a good mix of her venting and Justin and Dominic getting together and writing a script about it.
How important to both of you is the idea of presenting disabled characters in films and on TV?
We are starting to see more films and TV shows that explore disabled issues, but I'd really like to get to the point where the wheelchair isn't relevant to the character. A guy from Desperados is in a children's show called My Spy Family and his wheelchair is purposely not mentioned – he gets picked on because he wears glasses, not because he's in a chair. So there's no reference to it and that made me smile quite a bit, because he's just a regular character. So you've got to show people in the industry that it can be done and then get people into just regular roles.
So do your agents lobby for that particular sort of thing?
My agent is brilliant. She puts me forward for anything in my age range. She does keep a keen eye out for projects looking for disabled artists, because that's obviously my niche, but if there's a part in my age range, she'll put me forward for it.
And Sasha, you're a model as well. Are you happy to continue modelling and acting or do you feel more pull towards one than the other?
I'm happy doing both, but I think I'm more drawn towards acting.
Have either of you got any other projects coming up?
For me, I've got a project in development with 104 Films that we're trying to get funding for. It's a short film that I wrote with Jason Maza (Dave in Special People). I've seen quite a few different scripts and it's encouraged me to get my own ideas down.
And for me, I'd like to, so if there are any acting parts about...! And in the meantime, I'm modelling. They tried to get the fashion show into London Fashion Week but they failed. Because it's all based on disabled models doing the catwalk and the clothes range is specifically designed for people in wheelchairs. The website is www.wheeliechix-chic.com. So I've been doing some modelling, but I really want to do some more acting.