Bean Gill wants the new show to challenge ‘Push’ how you view people with disabilities
Ten years ago, Benveet (Bean) Gill went to bed with her legs in Las Vegas. In the morning, Friday the 13th, she woke up without it.
“I was paralyzed within 10 minutes,” Gill told CBC News, describing how a sudden pain in her back eventually led to paralysis of her right and then left leg.
“This sudden change from being a fully functional, independent woman to having a disability, being dependent on other people has been a really tough transition for me in my life — and it’s really hard for anyone to pull through.”
What followed was what she described as the worst year of her life, as what was later diagnosed as transverse myelitis caused irreparable damage to her spine and, doctors told her, would permanently affect her ability to walk. But instead of despairing, Gill did the opposite.
She worked almost continuously with a trainer to regain strength and mobility, became an inclusion and disability rights activist, and founded a gym and treatment center to help others recover from paralysis. Now, a decade later, she’s just wrapped up work on a new original series about what that life was like.
“I truly believe that one person can make a difference, and I think I’m that person who can make a huge difference in a lot of people’s lives,” she said. “I want people with disabilities to know that they can still have great lives. You don’t have to be ashamed or hide yourself.”
But during this show Press (Premiering today at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBC TV and CBC Gem) follows her and her real-life friends, affectionately known as the “Wheelie Peeps,” and shows them how to overcome various challenges, not to inspire. Instead, Gil did Press in answer to a question: Why do people with disabilities have to choose between being ignored or inspiring to be seen on screen?
“The show itself just shows our lives, our friends with disabilities, what we do, how we live. And it’s not what most people think,” she said. “You can be successful, you can have all these things and you can have a disability. It’s 2023, so it’s about time we live like this.”
Despite recent films like KODA And eternal Representation still lags behind with characters with disabilities — especially on television, according to a 2022 study by Nielsen. And when disabilities are featured, Gill said, it’s more common to use them as examples of what they call “inspirational porn.” ‘, sources of motivation rather than real people with their own personal journeys and issues that transcend their disabilities.
Press could potentially help change that as it is the first major primetime show in Canada with a cast of people with disabilities. That includes people like couple Victoria Berezovich and Brian McPherson, both with equally “powerful personalities,” Gill said.
There’s YouTuber Brittney Ninety, who had two children after becoming paralyzed. There’s Aleem Jaffer, a Muslim gay man with cerebral palsy, which to him, Gill said, “is just a whole bag of tricks, isn’t it?”
They’re similar in that they all use wheelchairs, but — while the show revolves around that commonality — Gill said the show is about going beyond that. Talking openly about and showing the day-to-day realities of living with disabilities, Gill said, will hopefully help humanize them in an arena where they often aren’t and discourage people from saying nothing to help avoid possibly saying something wrong.
“I really hope people start seeing people with disabilities. So many of us want to be seen and heard, but too many of us are ignored,” she said.
“And you know what? Everyone is just one step away from joining this club. So don’t think that you are high and mighty because you are not. You could be a part of this club too.”