I can’t really remember what made me tune in to The Guild for the first time, but all I can remember is that I fell in love with the show immediately. I loved the character so much, and often times related a bit too well with Felicia Day’s character, Codex. While I may have related better with the Knights of Good, I was obsessed with the show’s clan of evil gamers, The Axis of Anarchy. The Axis is hilarious, every character bringing something uniquely hilarious to the Axis. One of my favorite Axis members is Venom, played by Teal Sherer. Venom is hilarious. She’s hysterically angry all the time, and her furious outbursts are some of my favorite things to watch. I knew that I had to learn more about Teal after falling in love with Venom, and I stumbled across her series My Gimpy Life where the plays a paraplegic actor trying to make their way in show business. While Venom is hilariously ridiculous, Teal’s character in Gimpy Life (also named Teal) is real. She’s dealing with real struggles, fighting for real dreams, and she’s genuinely likable and funny. I knew that I had to talk to Teal for the series, ask her about being an actor, making her way in show business, and the amazing ways that she’s breaking down stereotypes of what it means to be a disabled person. She’s amazing, kind, and inspiring, and I’m thrilled to feature her here.
When did you decide you wanted to be an actor?
I started acting in college at Oglethorpe University. I had to take a theatre class as part of my Communications major and fell in love. My professor, Troy Dwyer, was so supportive and encouraging. He cast me in my first play, “The House of Bernarda Alba”, playing a character that wasn’t written to be disabled. I’ve been acting ever since.
I was first introduced to you through your character on The Guild, Venom. What was it like being a part of a web show that has become such a cult classic?
It’s super special. Felicia Day’s show has impacted so many people and The Guild fans are the absolute best! I miss playing Venom – she’s so cool.
You created your own web series, My Gimpy Life. Did you want to keep that show web-based, or did you try to get it on TV first?
I would love to make My Gimpy Life for broadcast or cable or HBO or Netflix or Hulu or anywhere we could reach a larger audience. After we shot our pilot, which we released as episode 3, we did festivals and took all the meetings we could get, but we weren’t able to find a home or traditional funding for a series. Luckily, we found a partner in Steven Dengler and Dracogen to finish our first season.
What are the advantages you’ve found from doing a show online rather than through a television network?
Some people might say the silver lining in web producing is that you don’t have to compromise, but that’s not necessarily true. I look at shows like Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm and I don’t see them compromising at all. With web projects you often have to make compromises because of limited time and money.
What was the most challenging part of creating your own web series?
The biggest challenge is finding your audience. By the time you reach the finish line, you probably don’t have a marketing budget. There are so many web series now that people have poured time and money into and they’re lucky if a thousand people watch the show. We hear a lot from new fans “how have I never heard of this?” and it’s because people are bombarded with major marketing all the time, and the only way our show breaks through is word of mouth.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators hurting for funding?
If you’ve never produced anything, crowd funding probably shouldn’t be your first avenue. Start small. Maybe try a 48 Hour Film contest in your city. Make friends, borrow and rent gear. Outside of Hollywood, people get excited about volunteering to be part of an indie project. If you’ve got more experience, crowd funding is a great way to expand and engage your fans.
What advice do you have for people wanting to start creating a web show, participate in one, or create something original online?
Don’t wait for the perfect time, just make something. Even if you shoot it on your phone. And emerging platforms are a great way to get noticed. YouTube is saturated, but if you can be one of the first people on whatever becomes the next hot app, you’ve got less competition.
I’m sure you’ve faced your fair share of struggles finding work in Hollywood as it isn’t always the most inclusive place. Though disabled actors feel it quite acutely, the industry has also come under fire for other ways it isn’t inclusive to women, people of color, or transgender individuals. How do you keep from becoming cynical and overwhelmed by that, and have you started to see any positive changes towards inclusiveness in Hollywood?
Creating my own opportunities, like My Gimpy Life, has helped me keep the cynicism at bay. And, yes, I have started to see positive change. For example, Ali Stroker is the the first wheelchair user to be on Broadway (in Spring Awakening playing a role that’s not disability specific), and I loved Target’s Halloween ad that featured a girl with a disability as Princess Elsa.
One thing I loved about Venom–apart from her constant rage–was that she wasn’t “the token character in a wheelchair”. She was real, and though her wheelchair was mentioned from time to time, her character really had very little to do with being a paraplegic. Even in My Gimpy Life, a show about a paraplegic actor, your character was a person with dimensions rather than a token character. How do you hope characters like those inspire other aspiring actors with disabilities?
In real life, people with disabilities are more than their disability – they are athletes, doctors, actors, moms, etc… Seeing this in the media helps break down stereotypes, and shows aspiring performers with disabilities that there is a place for them in the entertainment industry.
Where can we find you online?
You can follow My Gimpy Life on Facebook and Twitter, and you can check out episodes on Youtube. If you like an episode of My Gimpy Life, please please please show it to a friend!
Thanks so much to Teal for taking the time to chat about acting and creating a space for yourself in your dream career. If you haven’t already, definitely check out My Gimpy Life–you won’t regret it. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like IGGPPC co-founder Stewie, Amy, writer extraordinaire, Jordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion line, Kathleen, author of the upcoming bookThe Fangirl Life, Mari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob.