Is Shannon DeVido’s Emma Wheemer a Person With Disability in Real Life?

Image Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/AMC

AMC’s drama series ‘Lucky Hank’ follows the personal and professional lives of William Henry “Hank” Devereaux, Jr., the head of the English department of Railton College. Hank’s colleagues start to expect him to get fired when he describes the institution, students, and faculties as mediocre. When Gracie proposes a no-confidence motion against the department head, Emma Wheemer conducts voting proceedings to remove and replace Hank. Wheemer is a leader in the department, which makes her earn the vote of Gracie in the election to the position of department head. She is also a person with a disability. If you want to know more about Shannon DeVido, the actress who plays her, you are at the right place!

Shannon DeVido: Real-Life Disability Advocate

Yes, Shannon DeVido is a person with a disability. DeVido was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects the muscles essential for movement. Although she wanted to be an athlete, the disease led her to a new pathway in life, which was theatre. “I fell in love with theatre. It was a place where I could be a weirdo. A different kind of person, which I’ve always wanted to be,” the actress told RespectAbility. Her life turned around after attending an improv theatre, where she realized that she could make it as a comedian.

DeVido then approached comedy as a medium to start conversations concerning disability. “Disability is such a hot, weird topic. People don’t really know what – ‘Can I talk to you?’ and ‘I don’t know what to say or what to do,’” the actress told CNET. “That’s totally human nature, and I’m never offended by that, but I think that using comedy in a way that allows you to start that conversation is such a unique and important way to do it,” she added. However, DeVido doesn’t want her disability to be the most distinguishable element in her comedy or performance, which led her to Julie Klausner’s comedy series ‘Different People.’

DeVido appears in ‘Different People’ after appearing in shows such as ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ and ‘Nightcap.’ She plays Andrea Mumford in the Hulu series. “She [Klausner] wrote this part for a beat poet, I think… and put me in the role. That had nothing to do with me being in a wheelchair. It was just about me being an actor. [Klausner] was able to find a way to incorporate my disability into this character — her life wasn’t about being disabled but she was able to make jokes using it. It was so smart,” she said in the same CNET interview.

Since then, DeVido appears in several renowned productions such as ‘Bridesman,’ ‘The Other Two,’ ‘Manifest,’ ‘Best Summer Ever,’ ‘Insatiable,’ etc. While establishing herself as an actress, DeVido is also immensely committed to creating her own content. In February 2020, she co-founded her own production company named King Friday Productions. She also creates videos for her YouTube channel called “Stare at Shannon,” which aims “to break the conventional image of disability through comedy.” “I think you need to do a little bit of everything. Especially when you have a disability, it helps to be multifaceted because not only do you understand the different perspectives of each medium, but you can also create your own work,” the actress told RespectAbility about creating one’s own content.

DeVido is a strong advocate of the representation of people with disability in the entertainment mediums. She also wants performers with a disability to play them. “There’s still able-bodied people being cast in disabled roles, which is very frustrating to watch. Everyone deserves to see themselves represented, because it makes you feel like part of society. That’s why it’s so important to have disabled actors representing themselves,” the actress added to CNET.

Read More: Is Hank Devereaux Based on a Real Professor? Is Railton College a Real College?