"I was the first visible character with a disability that was cast on a series. ... I think it was because I never saw myself as 'disabled,' so I didn't realize how big it was. I didn't realize that until years later, how big it really was."
About This Interview
In her nearly two-and-a-half-hour interview, Geri Jewell discusses her early childhood and her family's move from her birthplace, Buffalo, NY to Southern California following her cerebral palsy diagnosis. She talks about her early love of Carol Burnett and her childhood dreams of becoming a television actress. She then details her high school forays into acting and how a college friend inspired her to try standup comedy, a move that led to her meeting Norman Lear and her first television appearances. Jewell discusses her groundbreaking role on The Facts of Life, including specific episodes, working with her fellow castmates, and the cultural impact of her appearance as the first character with a disability on a television series. She touches on other television appearances, including on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty, on 21 Jump Street, and the made for TV movie Two of a Kind. She then tells the story of being cast on David Milch's HBO Western series Deadwood after a chance meeting with Milch, and discusses specific episodes featuring her character, "Jewel." She concludes by giving advice to aspiring actors, discussing her proudest career achievements and regrets, and how she'd like to be remembered. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview on March 10, 2016 in Altadena, CA.