A visually impaired Nanaimo actor is making his on-screen debut in a new big-budget television series about a dystopian future where everyone has gone blind.
Jefferson Halliday, whose diabetic retinopathy limits his scope and clarity of vision, had only been taken acting classes for three years at Spotlight Academy when his coach Jacqui Kaese mentioned him to the casting director for See, a new program starring Jason Momoa of Aquaman and Game of Thrones fame, which launches with Apple’s new television service, Apple TV+.
He sent his audition tape in last November, two days later got the part of a courtier – in the world of See humanity has returned to a primitive state – and a within the week he was in Vancouver getting fitted for costumes and prosthetics. Filming was done outside Campbell River and Halliday was on set from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2, 2018.
Halliday said it was fascinating that the casting director for See was seeking visually impaired actors to play the role of visually impaired people. He said opportunities for visually impaired actors are “not great.”
“Maybe because people are afraid and they don’t understand what the actor needs and of course everybody’s visual impairment is slightly different in how they deal with it and what actually is wrong,” he said. “Because only a small percentage of visually impaired people are completely blind.”
Just seeing the casting notice mention visually impaired people was a “wow moment” he said.
“I’d looked at Vancouver Actor’s Guide audition listings and stuff like that and never had I seen a specific request for any sort of disability,” Halliday said. “So that was kind of amazing and just the fact that they wanted to add actually visually impaired and totally blind people to the cast was pretty impressive.”
Halliday said he met some interesting people on set, including blind Paralympic swimmer Donovan Tildesley, and at night at the pub over dinner the visually impaired castmates would have “conversations you can only have with other people that are visually impaired or share a similar handicap.”
“Like reactions of other people and how sometimes I’ve got the stick out and I can’t see much and somebody will start talking loud at me,” he said. “Like, I’m not deaf, my hearing is perfectly fine. And we’ve all had that.”
Halliday said it was interesting to observe how it takes hundreds of people all doing their part to put a major television production together. He said being on set was “the only place I’ve worked where I think everybody else wanted to be there.”
“Every other place I’ve worked there’s always that group: They hate the place, they hate the people, they don’t want to be there. I saw none of that when I was there,” he said. “And it’s so much fun I really want to do that again.”
Apple TV+ launches on Nov. 1.