Diversity matters, but actress Lauren “Lolo” Spencer is making it her mission to highlight a group grossly under-misrepresented in the film industry, she is tackling disability representation.
Spencer, who was nominated alongside Octavia Spencer and Jennifer Lopez for a Best Supporting Female Actress award at the 35th annual Spirit Awards for her role in Give Me Liberty, has lived with ALS for the past 17 years.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.
“I learned about the film through my agent,” Spencer mused while speaking to Shadow And Act. “She came to me and told me, ‘Hey, these indie filmmakers are trying to make this film, they’re specifically looking for a young Black woman who’s a wheelchair user. Do you want to audition?’ Prior to then, I had never acted. Thankfully, Kirill, who was our director, and Alice, who’s our producer, really liked what I had done, and the rest is history. We kept in contact for two years via Skype before even going into production.”
Spencer gushed over the authenticity of her character Tracey, a social worker in the movie.
“I was really drawn to my character of Tracy because of the way she was written,” she explained. “She just so happened to have a disability. It wasn’t some inspiration porn gaze. It was about her humanity, her personality and how she shows up in the world, first and foremost. It was literally about the realness of who she was, and the whole team was open to any notes for authenticity. Once I knew they were cool with those kinds of things, I was 100% on board.”
According to Spencer, there was some doubt about whether the movie would ever be made as investors did not believe that a movie with a disabled lead character could be successful. The pre-production alone took two years, and right before production began, she backed out. Fortunately, the film’s director, Kirill Mikhanovsky, was able to coax her back.
“I really wanted to bridge that gap between disability and society’s assumptions about our lifestyle. I make content surrounding that no matter what it is, whether it’s fashion, sex, relationships, going out and turning up, traveling, traveling tips, how to make your home accessible, things not to say, things to do and not to do. I’m really going to go a lot harder this year,” The YouTuber shared.
Spencer reveals that she is currently working on a scripted series and will be pitching it to television networks. Whatever happens, she says she wants to open the dialogue surrounding disability representation.
“A lot of the times when they tell stories of disability it’s to make the able-bodied community feel better about their lives because ‘Oh, poor little them, look at them, they can have a birthday party.’ I just don’t even think the proper conversation has even started in society.”
Spencer says that she feels that Hollywood is beginning to do a better job at creating more authentic roles when it comes to disability.
“I do believe, which is why I do the work that I do, that the entertainment and beauty industries are what shapes culture and what changes culture. So anything that I can do to show that representation in an authentic way, I’m open and down to do it. But I do think the conversation of disability needs to start happening more often.”