When Ellie Mason was born she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and her mum was told that she’d never speak. Now she’s determined to show what disabled people are capable of through her work on stage and TV.
How have you managed to improve your speech?
I couldn’t speak very clearly and now I can. My mum helped me with my speech therapy, from when I was a little girl, and over the last seven years with my singing teacher.
I’ve also been in quite a few TV commercials, as an extra, such as for Tesco a few years ago, and I was in a BBC TV programme called Jerk.
How did you summon the confidence to start stage and TV work?
It was through the confidence that Spare Tyre theatre company gave me. They work with disabled people. I’ve been with them for 20 years.
They take an idea from us and then they invite us to explore it, but in a kind of simple, easy way. We just explore it and make it into a show.
I’ve been in A Night at the Circus, directed by Fauve Alice. We took the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I won an award for that.
You must need a lot of imagination…
Yes. But obviously they help as well. For the one we did in Edinburgh, I was playing a sexy siren character! So basically, I did a sexy dance in a dress, and I won an award for my performance because it was quite eye-catching.
I was very nervous, but I was up for doing it because, I believe that people should look beyond the disability.
Are there ever challenges regarding access and facilities, on sets and in theatres?
There can be various access problems. When I come across them, I speak with my promoter and agency. I’ve been on a lot of sets, and I know what to look out for.
It’s hard, but I think the world is slowly finding out more about disability. Even in the latest Barbie movie, there are disabled characters. I’ve got all the Barbies that are wheelchair users. I’m collecting them all!
Do you think that Barbie is just as amazing in a wheelchair?
Yes, there shouldn’t be any doubts. And it’s good for children to realise
that there are other people around
with a disability. People should be equal!
Is that part of why you do your acting, to show disabled people what’s possible and what they can achieve?
Yes, definitely. Like I said, when I worked with my theatre company, I was very shy and very quiet. They’ve given me the confidence to go to the Disability Resource Centre in Stratford, to my choir, and even to karaoke. I have singing lessons with my singing tutor, Jenny La Touche.
What’s the best piece of advice that you can give to disabled people?
Don’t give up!
Being nervous is also OK. It’s taken me a long time to find my confidence and ring up agencies. I just ask them about what kind of opportunities are available, particularly for disabled actors. There weren’t many available a few years ago. I think they’re coming to light now and that’s what I want to promote.
People should be more aware of disability.