Bryan Cranston is defending his casting in The Upside. In the film, Cranston plays a quadriplegic billionaire who hires a felon played by Kevin Hart as a caretaker. Cranston countered critics claiming that the role should have gone to a disabled actor while talking with the Press Association.
“As actors we’re asked to play other people,” Cranston said, according to the BBC. “If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy, does that mean I can’t play a homosexual?”
While he understands the need to cast more disabled actors in Hollywood, Cranston said that the decision to cast him as the lead was "a business decision" on the part of the studio. That being said, Cranston didn't think his taking the role was above reproach.
"We live in the world of criticism, if we're willing to get up and try something, we have to also be willing to take criticism. We're very aware of the need to expand the opportunities for people with disabilities," he said, via Sky News. "I think being cast in this role as a quadriplegic really came down to a business decision."
Hart, who's been spending this press run addressing past offensive tweets, said that he's happy to see a conversation start around the movie.
"I think having a conversation started is always a good thing," he said. "In this particular case, bringing awareness to the fact that hey, we would love to see more disabled people given the opportunities to participate in the entertainment world, and potentially grow."
While there has been considerable blowback against actors taking on roles outside of their own race, ability, or sexual orientation in recent months, actors from those under-represented communities don't all share the same opinion on the topic. Golden Globe winner and openly gay actor Ben Whishaw said that he believes actors can portray anything, including gay actors playing straight characters.
"I really believe that actors can embody and portray anything and we shouldn't be defined only by what we are," he said, according to the BBC. "On the other hand, I think there needs to be greater equality. I would like to see more gay actors playing straight roles. It should be an even playing field for everybody. That would be my ideal."