Bryan Cranston Calls Playing Disabled Character in ‘The Upside’ a ‘Case of Catch-22’

“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,” the “Breaking Bad” actor says

The Upside
STX/Lantern Entertainment

Bryan Cranston has weighed in on a long-running debate in the film industry about representation on screen, responding to a question about whether able-bodied actors should play disabled individuals in films and TV.

Cranston, who plays a quadriplegic in “The Upside” opposite Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman opening this weekend, defended his casting to the British Press Association.

“As actors we’re asked to play other people,” Cranston said via 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?”

Cranston said his casting came down to a “business decision” and that playing the part was ultimately a “case of catch-22.”

“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,” Cranston continued, according to Sky News. “I don’t know, where does the restriction apply, where is the line for that?”

In recent months, actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Dwayne Johnson and Joaquin Phoenix have also portrayed disabled characters on screen, in some cases facing outcry and in others kicking off a larger debate over whether only actors who identify a certain way should be allowed to play certain characters.

This issue has been extended to sexuality and race on screen. “American Crime Story” star Darren Criss, a straight actor, recently said he would no longer accept LGBT roles because he does not want to deprive gay actors such parts. Scarlett Johansson also faced backlash when it was revealed she would be portraying a transgender man in the film “Rub & Tug,” causing her to exit the project.

Ben Whishaw was similarly asked about the debate at the Golden Globes after winning his award for “A Very English Scandal.”

“I really believe that actors can embody and portray anything and we shouldn’t be defined only by what we are,” Whishaw said backstage at the Golden Globes. “I would like to see more gay actors playing straight roles.”