An Interview with Teal Sherer by PUSH Living’s Deborah Davis

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Teal Sherer grew up in Knoxville Tennessee. When she was 14 years of age she with three of her school friends were on their way to a Labor Day fireworks show when they were involved in a car accident. Teal broke her back and became a paraplegic. Teal went to college at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta where she caught the acting bug. When she wasn’t performing in plays like The House of Bernarda Alba and Antigone, she was stage managing, selling tickets or ushering.

In 2004, while still living in Altanta, Teal was cast in her first Hollywood film, HBO’s Emmy Award winning Warm Springs.

After moving to Los Angeles Teal was a founding member of Blue Zone Productions, a theatre company that promoted actors with disabilities.

She produced and starred in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof, and has been a regular in The Guild.

Her latest project “My Gimpy Life” is about the awkward adventures of a driven actress, trying to navigate her way through Hollywood in a wheelchair.

How long have you been an actress?

12 years. I started acting my freshman year of college. I had to take a theatre class as part of my major and it was love at first sight. I’ve been acting nonstop ever since.

What do you consider to be your greatest professional moment so far?

Wow. I don’t think I could call any of them the “greatest” as they are all important and wonderful for different reasons. One of my favorite moments though is dancing and singing (in an antique wheelchair) in the Emmy Award winning HBO film WARM SPRINGS. Kenneth Branagh, Cynthia Nixon, and Kathy Bates were also in that scene which was pretty amazing. Another favorite moment was booking a series regular role in the NBC pilot “I’m With Stupid” (unfortunately it didn’t get picked up). And another great moment was performing with and being directed by Dustin Hoffman in the stage show AMERICAN VOICES. I also loved played “Venom” in Felicia Day’s hit web series THE GUILD because the character is so much fun and different than me.

Have you traveled overseas in your “gimpy life?”

Unfortunately, not yet. I went to an accessible surf camp in Costa Rica though a couple years ago, which was pretty amazing. I’ve been on a couple Caribbean Cruises and I’ve traveled a lot in the United States – but that’s it. I can’t wait to travel overseas.

What is one of the places you would recommend to our audience? The surf camp I mentioned above. Here’s the link http://www.shakacostarica.com/ (look under OHG Surf Camps).

Where would you like to travel next?

Australia and New Zealand.

When you travel, what are some of your personal “tricks of the trade” so to speak that you have found makes your travel more comfortable and enjoyable?

Research. Because of the Internet it’s so easy to get information. It’s important for me to know that the hotel I’m staying at is accessible and that the places I’m planning to visit will be easy for me to navigate. People with a disabilities often blog about their travels and there are magazines like NEW MOBILITY that have published some great articles about traveling. It’s impossible to plan everything and sometimes you just have to wing it as , but doing your homework beforehand will definitely help you avoid travel annoyances.

What type of home do you live in in LA? An apt, house?

I live in an apartment. I wish it were a house.

How difficult was it to find accessible housing?

It definitely limits your choices. Not only did my fiancé and I have to find an apartment building that is accessible we also needed the building to have at least two elevators (in case one breaks down). Parking in Los Angeles is awful so it’s important that parking is available wherever you live. Most buildings that fit all of these requirements are newer and therefore more expensive, which is unfortunate. It would be nice to have more options.

What do you find the most joy in outside of acting?

Besides hanging out with my family, fiancé, and friends, I’d say producing. I love being a part of a project from the beginning to the end, and to be one of the people responsible for making it happen. It’s very rewarding.

teal-sherer2

Do you prefer comedy or drama?

I honestly like them both equally. I think comedy often comes out of really good drama. When successfully used together magic happens.

When you become famous, how would you like to use your fame to impact society?

When you are well known and respected for your work doors open more easily and you have a bigger platform on which to speak and bring awareness. I’m very passionate about inclusion and equal rights for people with disabilities, and accessibility. It’s crazy to me that so many places still aren’t physically accessible for people with disabilities and that media isn’t always closed captioned so that it is accessible for people that are hearing impaired. I could go on….

Is your main intention of this sitcom to help make wheelers more visible and understood?

Yes, that’s definitely a big part of it. People with disabilities are pretty much invisible in the entertainment industry and I want to give a “voice” to our experience. I’m not saying that the show represents every person with a disabilities point of view. It doesn’t.

In your words, what are you trying to achieve with “My Gimpy Life,” other than making a great and entertaining comedy?

In addition to making a great, entertaining comedy, I hope the show makes people think and perhaps even challenges how they perceive people with disabilities.

Oprah publishes a list of “her favorite things”..what are some of yours??

  • Red wine
  • A warm, gooey brownie with vanilla ice cream
  • The books “Cider House Rules” (John Irving) and “The Hunger Games” trilogy (Suzanne Collins)
  • The TV shows “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones”
  • Barbara Gordon/Oracle and “The Birds of Prey” comic book series.
  • Black boots
  • Red lipstick
  • Massages

What are some of the ways you stay in shape and do you use any tools, equipment or exercise routines that you would recommend?

I have an EasyStand Glider standing frame that I love. I’m also a member of 24 Hour Fitness and I use their arm bike, pool, and I also work out with a personal trainer there. We lift weights, use cables, medicine balls, and we usually box for a little while during our sessions. I really enjoy that. Boxing is a crazy good workout. I also stretch a lot and do yoga and Pilates exercises. Working out and eating healthy is very important to me.

What are some of your Lifestyle activities that you enjoy?

Adaptive skiing, surfing, swimming, and dancing. I danced with a professionally physically integrated modern dance company called Full Radius Dance when I lived in Atlanta. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Deborah Davis

Deborah is a Speaker, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Entrepreneur, Writer and Business Owner of Wheelchair Lifestyle Enterprise Push Living Inc.

She was a Former Dancer, Accident Survivor (C 6-7 Spinal Cord Injury resulting in incomplete Quadriplegia 1985), College grad (BBA Finance 1991 U of Miami), with a background in Sales and Marketing and Non Profit Development and Management.

She is now embarked on new path creating a market for Disability Inclusive Stock Images with the creation of PUSHlivingPhotos.com and publishing an online enterprise: PushLiving.com. The mission is to create Inclusion for people with disabilities through stock images for advertising, marketing and editorial uses, providing accessible properties for travel, swap or purchase, publishing an online magazine for improved health and well-being, providing information and opportunities for Accessible Travel, and operating an online store with products that improve lives.

She is most passionate about building a network of people with disabilities who are empowering, supporting and creating a more inclusive world. Personally, she is a mother of two beautiful, wise and exceptionally bright young women, and residing in South Florida.

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