GLEE Guest Star Weinstein Talks Career With Disabilities

By: May. 09, 2010

Actor Zack Weinstein will be appearing in next week's episode of hit television show GLEE. What makes the appearance stand out is that, unlike Kevin McHale - who plays GLEE's Artie Abrams who is confined to a wheelchair - Weinstein faces disabilities on a daily basis. The actor became paralyzed during a canoeing trip in college. While he was left with only the use of most of his upper body, leaving him unable to use his hands or legs, Weinstein has fought to continue his dream of acting.

Weinstein is featured in a new interview with On his reaction to getting the role: "I didn't scream, or pump my fist in the air, have streaming tears of joy, or anything like that. I guess it was like breathing a huge sigh of relief. It was validation that this thing that I'm trying to do can be done and I'm talented enough to be the one doing it. Don't get me wrong. It's not like I landed the lead role in the next Spielberg blockbuster. It's five minutes on one episode of a TV show that happens to be popular at the moment. But I think it's going to be a good five minutes. And for only being in the professional world for about eight months, it's a good start."

Coinciding with Newsweek's recent inflammatory article regarding gay performers portraying straight characters, Weinstein was asked if Hollywood should be pushed to offer at least the few roles for people with disabilities to real people with disabilities.

"I agree with you that it would be great if that happened and I also agree that Hollywood should be pushed to do their best to give those roles to real people with disabilities. I just don't think that it should be some sort of requirement. I think the way that Hollywood can do its best to give people with disabilities a place in this industry, at least as far as acting is concerned, is to give people with disabilities an equal opportunity to audition and prove that not only do we fit the role, but we are the perfect person to play the role. One thing that I think would be a real change would be to see a character who has a disability but whose storyline has nothing to do with the disability. When we see characters with disabilities they almost always have storylines having to do with them "dealing with" or "overcoming" their disability. They rarely have any other challenges to face. I would love to get a role where the fact that I have a disability and use a wheelchair has nothing to do whatsoever with what's going on with my character."

To read the entire interview with Weinstein, click here.

In a recent profile in the NY Post, Weinstein shared about his appearance on GLEE: "The part was written for a character with a spinal cord injury similar to mine. It's very well-written and truthful to what I've experienced." The actor adds, "Everyone on set was great, and I had a blast! It was 12 straight hours of filming two scenes for five minutes of airtime."

Fox describes the episode, "Rachel panics when a sore throat affects her singing; Kurt tries to change his persona to impress his father); and Puck makes a strategic move to elevate his social status."

While Weinstein cannot discuss the specifics of his episode, the Post suggests that the performer might have a duet with GLEE star, and Broadway favorite, Lea Michele.

"The way it's written, there's a chance I could be called back," he adds hopefully.

"My goal is just to be a working actor - it's what I love to do." He paused and then said shyly, "And I think I'm pretty good at it, too."

GLEE - "Laryngitis" airs May 11, 2010.

Recent winner of the People's Choice Award for Best New Comedy and Golden Globe winner for Best Television Series Comedy or Musical, GLEE, the new musical comedy series, follows an optimistic teacher who - against all odds and a malicious cheerleading coach - attempts to save McKinley High's Glee Club from obscurity while helping a group of aspiring underdogs realize their true star potential.

The show, which also garnered Golden Globe recognition, stars Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling and Jenna Ushkowitz.

GLEE is produced by Ryan Murphy Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan are co-creators of the series. Murphy, Falchuk and Dante di Loreto serve as executive producers, while Ian Brennan serves as co-executive producer.

For information on the upcoming GLEE tour this summer, visit