Monday, 24 July 2017

In Conversation with Disabled Actress Storme Toolis

A while back I had the pleasure of getting to know one of the most hilarious and easy to talk to people I know, Storme Toolis. We connected on Twitter and her face was familiar to me immediately when she followed me. She's a disabled actress and you'll probably know her from one of 3 Maltesers adverts that came out during the Paralympics, all featuring disabled people. Her's was branded 'brilliantly filthy' and it's the one that stuck in my mind the most, it certainly made me laugh. Her CV also boasts credits in both New Tricks and The Inbetweeners movie as well.

I met up with her for pizza and prosecco and we instantly connected, chatting about how we wanted to collaborate with each other in some way so here we are today, with a little conversation/interview between us about her experience as a disabled actor!


What made you want to get into acting?

I always wanted to get into acting because I enjoyed the fantasy and escape element of it, getting into other character's heads and learning. I was always very clearly told though that acting wouldn't be the career for me and that I should just become a teacher.

Have you faced any barriers, physical or societal?

Yes, all the time. Some are so small I don't even notice. I think it really depends on what you let limit you, I've always been a determined little madam and I will go out of my way to cause a fuss if someone says I can't do something. There are barriers certainly when it comes to getting work as an actor, for anyone but mine I would just say are more profound.

What have people's attitudes been towards you as a disabled actor?

Somewhat surprised usually- I think honestly most people are surprised when they heard of a disabled person having an actual career that they enjoy doing and having some control over their work. I believe you need to make much more of an effort to prove yourself and consistently remain professional when you are disabled, people always assume you need help or something making easier. This isn't always the case.


Do you think diversity in media has improved enough since the advert you starred in came out?

It's getting better, the advert was cheeky and funny and people loved it because it was about sex - and sex sells. It's still nowhere near where it should be though. We don't have a group of disabled A listers that we can call upon. I'm striving to get up to that kind of level.

Do you feel you're treated differently to abled actors?

Yes, in the sense that the pool is even smaller and the auditions are even less frequent. I would go every week if I could but there simply aren't enough chances. I don't really have much of a chance when going to open auditions. I would love to be at an equal playing field with other young, fiesty female actresses with red hair. I feel like people always pass the buck. In reality it's everyone's job to want to try and incorporate more variety and diversity in media.

Do you think you face any barriers in your everyday life?

Yes, in a personal and professional sense. I have to push myself harder than most, I have to manage my life at the control of other people. I strive everyday to feel confident, pretty and accomplish as much as anyone else. Small practical things like when my wheelchair breaks, or when my shoe falls off in the middle of the road. I try, as best as I can and so far I've accomplished much more than I expected. I'm getting there.

A note from Shona:

Thank you Storme for speaking to me! It's so encouraging to see people like Storme in mainstream media more, starring in big adverts as the main focus rather than an extra but I think we all know we still have a way to go. 13 million people in the UK are disabled but the media around us does a really poor job of representing this reality, and representing it well. I have hope for the future though, especially with talented actresses like Storme being so determined to change things for the better!
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2 comments

  1. Thanks for this. i'm not an actor, but this is an extremely important issue to me. I liken using abled actors for disabled roles to using white actors in blackface for black roles. Hollywood touts it's diversity, but does not include actors with disability in that. More noise needs to be made. Pro tip: look for "My Gimpy Life" on You Tube.

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    Replies
    1. I absolutely liken abled actors playing disabled characters to blackface and it angers me that it isn't treated the same by everyone else!

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