Kyra Sedgwick and the lighter side of disability in "All of Me"

Kyra Sedgwick and the lighter side of disability in
By: CBS News Posted On: May 26, 2024 View: 79

It's been more than 40 years since Kyra Sedgwick first appeared on TV, on the soap opera "Another World." She recalled her lines from her first scene: "Oh, my God: 'I'm on the road with a rock group, Grandma. It's called The Deep Six'," she laughed. "I was 16 years old, and that's when I fell in love with acting."

In the decades since, she's costarred in movies like "Born on the Fourth of July," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," and "Singles." She headlined the hit TV series "The Closer," and she's directed for the big and small screens. 

So, what is Kyra Sedgwick doing in a 157-seat Off-Broadway theater? "I love the play," she explained, "and it feels like we're talking about stuff that's important that doesn't get a lot of light shown on it, which is disability, but doing it in this incredible container of a rom-com and, like, a family dysfunction story – which is my jam!"

In "All of Me" by playwright Laura Winters, Sedgwick plays Connie, the working-class mother of Lucy, who uses a scooter and communicates primarily via text-to-speech technology – as does Lucy's romantic interest, Alfonso. Sedgwick said, "I think people might be afraid if there's two people in wheelchairs that it's gonna be sad, and it's anything but. It's hilarious."

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Madison Ferris and Kyra Sedgwick in the Off-Broadway comedy "All of Me."  CBS News

Madison Ferris and Danny J. Gomez play the romantic leads. They say they like the play for not indulging in what's been called "inspiration porn," which Gomez described as, "Look at this disabled person, he just scored the basket at the end, and everyone picks him up, and you know, it's like, He's so inspirational!"

Ferris added, "Or they have, like, a special skill that no one else can do. They might've existed through life never hacking a computer in their life, and then once they become disabled, that's their main talent."

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Madison Ferris and Danny J. Gomez in "All of Me." CBS News

The play explores the often-low expectations placed on disabled people, something Ferris and Gomez understand well. "I had a mountain biking accident that left me paralyzed from the waist down," Gomez said. "I didn't think anything in life was possible. But as people with disabilities, we are the best adapters of life. Like, we adapt to any situation."

Ferris said, "I think my mom kind of expected me to stay home and live with her. And boy, did I prove her wrong!"

Ferris, who has muscular dystrophy, exceeded those expectations, making her professional debut on Broadway opposite Sally Field in "The Glass Menagerie."

The push-and-pull between parent and child is something Sedgwick has thought a lot about since her own two kids with husband actor Kevin Bacon left the nest.

Asked to complete the sentence "If you've done your job as a mother, then …" Sedgwick replied: "Your kids leave. Yeah, your kids leave. They just don't need you in the same way, they can survive without you, which is kind of heartbreaking! I mean, I will always wake up in the morning and the first thing I think about is them. But they don't need me for their day-to-day."

Sedgwick and Bacon have been married for more than 35 years. She says her family's stability is a far cry from what she grew up with: "They're very different. I mean, no question. My father left when I was two-and-a-half, and left my mom with three kids. I mean, I just think there's trauma there, right? No one gets out alive with the trauma. No one does."

When Sedgwick was six years old, her mother married renowned art collector Ben Heller. "It was like a whole 'nother world," Sedgwick said. "We had been, you know, kids who played tag in the house, and I was really a tomboy. And then suddenly it was, like, there were Rothkos and there were Pollocks and Gottliebs and, like, we had to be careful, because we were surrounded by important art. And that felt clear. Like, This is important art, so you should be important too."

Once she showed talent, the expectations on her from her parents were raised. "Once I started to act," she said, "I felt them shift their attention in a way that felt pretty intense, actually! I think they had high expectations for me, and I had high expectations of myself."

And does she think that those raised expectations were good? "Well, I think it's paid off," she said. "At, you know, 57, 58, I'm producing a lot of things that will be high-profile, and directing things that will be high-profile. And I guess the message for me is, don't believe people when they tell you, 'You really shouldn't even try. There's people better than you in that.' Stand up and be counted. You have a lot to contribute."

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The cast of "All of Me," from left: Madison Ferris, Florencia Lozano, Kyra Sedgwick, Lily Mae Harrington, Danny J. Gomez, and Brian Morabito.  Natalie Powers

      
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Story produced by Amol Mhatre. Editor: Carole Ross. 

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