11 May 2014

The legendary Rovers Return

The legendary Rovers Return

Coronation Street launch search for disabled actor for new starring role

Coronation Street bosses have launched a nationwide search to find a disabled actor to take on a new starring role.

Casting directors are to hold auditions in London, Glasgow and Manchester to find the right man to play new character Howie, who is described as a ‘cheeky chappy’.

They are looking to audition actors with any form of “visible disability” for the role, aged in his 40s.

A Corrie spokeswoman said: “Howie is a new disabled character that is being written into storylines starting on screen in the Autumn.

“He will be connected to a current cast member, although that’s all we can say at this stage.”

The new character is believed to have been written in to storylines to increase diversity on the cobbles of Weatherfield, and to give opportunities to actors with disabilities.

The soap currently features storylines involving wheelchair-bound Izzy Armstrong, played by actress Cherylee Houston, who has rare tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. When she joined in 2010 she made history as the show’s first disabled actress.

— Manchester Evening News

08 February 2014

Max Burkholder stars as Max Braverman on NBC’s “Parenthood.”

Max Burkholder stars as Max Braverman on NBC’s “Parenthood.” The character, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is one of eight with disabilities expected to appear regularly on broadcast television this season. (Joe Pugliese/NBC)

TV Characters With Disabilities On The Rise

In October 2013 DisabilitySccop reported:

Twice as many characters with disabilities will appear on broadcast television this year as compared to last, a new [US] report finds, though they still account for just 1 percent of those depicted.

Max Burkholder stars as Max Braverman on NBC’s “Parenthood.” The character, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is one of eight with disabilities expected to appear regularly on broadcast television this season. (Joe Pugliese/NBC)

Out of 796 characters appearing regularly on 109 scripted, prime-time shows this year on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW, eight have disabilities, up from four last year.

The findings come from an annual analysis of diversity in television programing conducted by GLAAD, a media advocacy organization for the gay and lesbian community. The report looks at the number of characters representing various minority groups — including those with disabilities — on shows scheduled for the 2013-2014 television season, which just began.

Read more here »

13 January 2014

When the world tells you “no”, you have two options: You can roll over and quit — or you can trust your power. Derrick Coleman, running back for the Seattle Seahawks, trusted the power within. Although he’s deaf, he never let adversity stand in his way, on his road to the NFL. Share this Duracell commercial to inspire others to trust their power within and achieve their dreams. #TrustYourPower

** Closed captioning available.

05 January 2014

‘”I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it’s hilarious.) “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for seeing more disabled people on screen.’ (modified via

Writer, actor, comedian, Maysoon Zayid is the co-founder of the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. Full bio »


09 August 2013

Today we spoke to the Human Rights Commission about the  More Diversity on Screen campaign and research.

As a retro montage shows, US “classic Saturday morning sitcom ‘Saved By The Bell’ wasn’t afraid to occasionally dip into darker themes”…including disability (via “In the video below, these ‘very special‘ plotlines are rendered highly comedic by having the upbeat ‘wooo’ sound that excited studio audiences make inappropriately played after the most intense of these moments.”

21 June 2013

We found the video for Rudimental’s “Waiting All Night”, directed by Nez of Riff Raff Films.

Nez says:

“We came up with the idea and through our research found Kurt Yaeger who was a famed BMX rider that lost his leg in a tragic accident. After years of fighting and training Kurt beat the odds and got back on his bike and is once again competing in the X games. We got in contact with him, and after lengthy Skype calls with Kurt we adjusted the original idea to keep it as close to his story as possible. Then we cast Kurt’s close friends in supporting roles and attempted to reconstruct the events through a BMX documentary style film – as if all this footage had been accumulated over time, and all we did was edit it together. We shot over three days in LA, everybody had a camera and then we came back to London with 45 hours of footage for Max Windows at Stitch to edit.”

30 April 2013

We found “Glee” star Ali Stroker (who is really disabled!) being interviewed by Rosanna Scotto and Greg Page on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York” about her involvement with United Cerebral Palsy of New York City’s (UCP of NYC) Women Who Care Luncheon, raising funds for programs, advocacy and services benefiting people living with disabilities. She also agrees with us that we need to see more authentic portrayal of disability on our screens.

14 April 2013

We just found this Cyndi Lauper video, Sisters of Avalon, and love that her piano player uses a wheelchair!

25 March 2013


Campaign aims to get disability seen more on screen

Over the years we’ve seen heaps of great television personalities on our screens. But what we haven’t seen are the one in five New Zealanders who have a disability.

These are the opening words of a new campaign that aims to to lobby broadcasters, ad agencies, talent agencies and the media to drive an increase in the visibility of disabled people on our television screens.

The More Diversity on Screen campaign is an initiative of Diversityworks Trust. It is the second phase of a project, Unique Extras, that promotes the talent of people with disability.

Trust Executive Director Philip Patston, who spent 15 years performing as a comedian with roles on Shortland Street, Pulp Comedy and Spin Doctors, says audiences are missing out. “We’ve seen a growing representation of gender, cultural and sexual diversity on our television screens. However audiences are still missing out on the one in five of us who live with the unique experience of disability,” Patston says.

A recent scan of major television channels conducted by the Trust showed that, in nearly 950 hours of content shown on channels One, 2, 3, Four. Prime and Maori Television in one week, five hours featured disabled characters, actors or presenters. Of these five hours only half an hour was not in prime time viewing (5.30pm-9.30pm).

Some advertising showed disabled people, but only in the context of charity and fundraising.

Representation of disabled people was included in the weekly documentary series Attitude, reality outdoors series Gone Fishin’ (whose presenter and producer Graeme Sinclair uses a wheelchair) and overseas series Glee, Packed to the Rafters, and Coronation Street.

Patston says he is optimistic about these statistics. “With TV being such a huge influence in society these days, it’s great that most representation is in prime time. Our challenge is to increase the number of hours and the number of local productions depicting disabled people.

“A key objective is to raise awareness and understanding of disability by bringing images of disabled people engaging in regular activities to the screens of New Zealanders. We want to make it commonplace to see disabled people in the background of scenes in TV series or in advertisements.”

The scan also showed that, over a week, channels One, 2 and 3 captioned a total of 425 hours of content for Deaf audiences, while 19.5 hours of content, on channels One and 2, were audio described for blind audiences.

Maori Television are supporting the campaign by airing an animated commercial free of charge. The commercial asks the public to visit to support the cause.

A survey of television viewers and members of the industry will also be conducted over the next three months.

The More Diversity on Screen campaign is supported by Think Differently, a Government social change campaign to encourage and support a fundamental shift in attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people.


For more information

Philip Patston
Executive Director
Diversityworks Trust Inc

p 09 976 4830
m 021 764 837

31 October 2012

Today marks the end of Phase 1 of the Unique Extras project. We farewell Cola Larcombe and thank her for helping us begin the project, build a unique talent base and begin our mission to see more diversity on screen. Phase 2 will see us work to network with agents to encourage them to increase the diversity of their talent base; engage the media industry in a conversation about diversity, disability and uniqueness; and increase the range of diversity seen on TV and in film, and how disability is portrayed. 

Since May, we have attracted a pool of talent that have unique abilities and the skills to be able to feature in television advertising, television shows, print advertising and even live shows. We also have a growing community of supporters.

In September we produced a mini-documentary featuring Carol Hirschfeld, Russell Brown, Graeme Sinclair, Andrea Kelland and Qiujing Wong, discussing the wider issue of diversity in the media and reflecting on what is needed by both the industry and disabled people to create more opportunities for disabled people to be represented in the media landscape.

Through this initial conversation we learned that disabled people need to get out there – attend acting workshops and auditions, be in audiences and even make our own shows, like Graeme Sinclair.

We need to show producers, advertisers and others in the industry that we can add value to their product. And we need the industry to yearn for something new – to see disability as unique, interesting and part of the diversity of our country.

We also learned that a major attitude shift needs to happen in the television industry to accept the diversity of disability – industry experts in the mini-documentary felt that audiences are ready but the industry is behind the eight-ball. Our desired change has been understood as echoing that of other minority groups becoming more prevalent, including the rise of Te Reo Maori. Industry leaders are open to be a part of what it takes to create social change in NZ media.

In order to create more onscreen opportunities for other disabled people, industry leaders are open to accept well-trained talent. They also understand the complexity of audiences currently being “over-fascinated” by the novelty of disability, and the need to saturate the media landscape to make disability more usual to audiences. Media leaders are confident that people with disabilities can get roles if they are good enough, but bottom line is to pull the ratings required to maintain a presence in the media.

So, Unique Extras is now ready to continue this conversation with other key people in New Zealand’s media. This dialogue will be led by Philip Patston (comedian, social entrepreneur and artist). The problem we’re facing is that society or, more precisely television and advertising executives, need a bit of encouragement, prodding and in some cases, a kick in the backside to realise that by having diversity in the media, we’re reflecting 100% of society rather than the 80% that they’re currently reflecting. So, using his charm and experience, Philip Patston is going to spend until July next year, leading a shift in thinking and behaviour to embrace more uniqueness and diversity in the media space.

11 October 2012

In 1999, Philip Patston was at the peak of his comedy career. He won the Billy T James award and had a short but well-remembered part in New Zealand’s longest running drama Shortland Street.

Since then Philip has faded from the media spotlight, but what he hoped for was that others unique like him (otherwise known as ‘disabled’) would become more visual in our media landscape.

This hasn’t been the case, which baffles him. This lack of change has led him to start up Unique Extras, with the aim of getting more diversity on our screens.

In this mini-documentary Philip interviews five influential New Zealanders in the media to see if his mission to get more diversity on screen is feasible – or if he’s just dreaming.

17 September 2012

Radio New Zealand’s One In Five recently profiled us. Click to listen. (From 13:48)

8 September 2012

Keegan Lewis had his dream come true last month when he became the lead singer of OpShop for the day. Jason Kerrison had better watch out! Check out the story on 3 News.

Also, listen to Keegan’s single with OpShop and watch his MakeAWish experience:

And Maioro Barton featured in Youthline’s “Heyday” magazine (pg 28-29).

16 July 2012

Keke Brown played “Marina Caldwell”, a patient with autism, in Shortland Street last week. We think she did a superb job!

Here’s a montage of the scenes. Great work Keke!

6 July 2012

A new music video tells the story of how we all have the opportunity to move from fear to love by removing the labels that tie us down.

The first of a musical collaboration between the Unique Agency’s founder Philip Patston and musician Arli Liberman, the core message of the video is to encourage people to engage in social change and for individuals to accept diversity and who we really are.

The video features many of our Unique Extras, including Candice Stock, Jaden Movold, Leah Hickey B Max Hannah.

Enjoy – and if you like it, please spread the word!

The video for As Love Draws Near was created by Patston to promote both the work he does and that of Diversityworks Trust. If you’d like to make a one-off or regular donation to the work of the Trust, please head over to their page on Givealittle.

Words: Philip Patston

Music: Arli Liberman

Harp: Tony Lewis

Video: Borderless Productions

23 May 2012

It was a huge pleasure and privilege for Diversitywork Trust’s Executive Director Philip Patston to be part of the music video for samRB’s Olympic anthem, “Stand Tall”. Big ups to Sam for including such diversity, including NZ Sign Language, to represent NZ at the Games. Here’s a photo of Philip at the shoot and the video below.

22 May 2012

Unique Extras Update | No 1 | May 2012

Hi everyone

It’s been a busy first month here at the Unique Extras Agency. We’ve had a great initial response and thank YOU for being so supportive and enthusiastic about being involved.

One of our first tasks has been to start working on our website. You can have a look at the work in progress here:

The site is still in development and will not be officially launched for a few weeks. The home page will be redesigned to give it more impact and we are still finalising its functionality and design, which will include a new logo and reformatted talent profiles. For those of you who are not listed on the website yet, as soon as we have your images either supplied or arranged to be taken, we can add you as well.

Please excuse any inconsistencies on the website at this stage, while we edit the content and standardise the format. Any comments and ideas you have will be considered – let us know. But in the meantime you can get an idea of how it will look, and the way you will be presented. We’ll be in touch with you to check that you are happy with your profile before we launch.

We also have had a couple of posters designed, attached if you wish to use them. We have hard copies too, so email if you’d like some. Huge thanks to Nic at Nic Butterworth Design and Tina at in Khyber Pass for their generosity in helping us getting the posters designed and printed so quickly.

We’ll establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and possibly other social media streams too, to promote the agency, its purpose, news and talent far and wide. Our main audience are casting agents, producers and agencies looking for a diversity of extras talent on their projects, be they films, TV productions or ad campaigns.

We are also talking with a photographer to help provide you with an affordable, professional portfolio of images, complete with hair, make-up and styling, either at a studio or as a mobile service to come to you (just in Auckland at this stage sorry!). More on that soon.

Finally, we are thrilled to have already placed a Unique Extra on Shortland Street with five scenes! She’ll be busy this week fitting for wardrobe, working with a dialogue coach, rehearsing and filming this Friday. We’ll let you know when the episode will screen and post behind-the-scenes footage (as well as the actual scenes hopefully) on our website showing what is required to be an extra in a TV series, as well as the end result.

Once again, thanks for being part of Unique Extras and contributing to our mission of getting more diversity on screen in Aotearoa New Zealand. We’ll be in touch again soon. Until then, take care and, if you have any queries, do contact us.

14 May 2012

Welcome to our new website.