In Netflix’s heist thriller movie ‘Lift,’ the protagonist Cyrus seeks the help of an air traffic controller named Harry to steal half a billion worth of gold that belongs to Lars Jorgensen. As an ATC working in Brussels, Harry’s help makes it possible for Cyrus and his team to swap the radar signature of the A380 plane that carries the gold with their private jet. Harry, in the film, is a person with a disability. When one of his colleagues nearly exposes his service to the robbers, he uses his disability to dismiss the person. Like the character, the artist who plays Harry is also a person with a disability!
David Proud’s Harry
British actor, writer, and filmmaker David Proud plays Harry in ‘Lift.’ David was born with spina bifida, a condition that occurs when the spinal cord doesn’t develop properly, exposing a part of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. The actor was diagnosed with the condition at the age of five. David used to walk with plastic leg splints while he was attending a primary school, where he was part of the soccer team mostly as a goalkeeper. After joining a secondary school, David required a wheelchair but he was not ready to transfer to another school because of his disability.
“I remember being asked if I wanted to go to a secondary school ‘more suited for my needs’ and refusing as I wanted to go where all my mates were going and my sister was,” David wrote for the magazine Inclusion Now by ALLFIE (the Alliance for Inclusive Education). As a student, David did really well as far as his academics were concerned. “Achieving those grades despite health problems is still to date one of my proudest achievements,” he added. He has always displayed resilience while facing challenges. “Being told that I can’t do something seems to make me more and more determined,” the artist further wrote.
Becoming an Artist
David made his debut as an actor with his portrayal of Charlie Johnson in the CBBC series ‘Desperados.’ Since then, he became a part of the cast of several projects, including BBC’s soap opera ‘EastEnders,’ which has been airing since 1985. David became the first ever regular cast member with a disability in the history of the renowned series. His acting credits also include roles in BBC’s comedy series ‘Siblings,’ the medical drama series ‘Doctors,’ ITV/Netflix’s crime noir series ‘Marcella,’ and Prime Video’s action thriller series ‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.’
After establishing himself as an actor, David went on to become a screenwriter. “I had worked as an actor since 2007 and felt like I had some much to say, I had spent time performing other people’s depictions of disability and wanted to create my own,” the artist told Raising Films about the motivation behind becoming a writer. After writing a series of short films and two episodes of ‘Doctors,’ he started writing for ITV’s soap opera ‘Coronation Street,’ which has been on air since 1960. His latest credit as a screenwriter is the 11157th episode of the soap opera, which aired on January 3, 2024.
David made his directorial debut with the 2017 short ‘Sympathy for the Lemon.’ As a filmmaker, he explores the nuances of living with a disability through his works, which include ‘Verisimilitude.’ The 2020 short revolves around an actress with a disability, who gets forced to teach an actor to play a character with a disability. “It scares me and thrills me in equal measure. I am so far out of my comfort zone – but that is a good thing. I would also say that it is one of the most intense jobs you can do on a film set as the hours are long,” David told Disability Horizons about becoming a director with a disability.
After making ‘Verisimilitude,’ David started co-directing a documentary feature. He continues to inspire people with disabilities through his works as a filmmaker, writer, and actor.