Remember Geri Jewell? She was the first performer with cerebral palsy to land a role on a primetime series, way back on “The Facts of Life.” Now the actress and stand-up comic, who also did a memorable turn as Jewell on “Deadwood,” is getting back into series action again — on J.J. Abrams’ newly-launched “Alcatraz.” She’s playing the sister of the warden played by Jason Butler Harner, a 1960s character.
“When they made me up I looked in the mirror and I saw my mother,” she cracks. But seriously, “I think that my character allows Jason’s character to have empathy. Because he works with brutal killers day in and day out, he’s become hardened in some ways. And I’m like the door to his heart. It’s a wonderful relationship. She’s very sarcastic, very intelligent, and that’s all I can reveal at this point. It’s such a cool show. It’s so way out there.”
Jewell has reaped deep emotional rewards from the memoir she released last year, I’m Walking as Straight as I Can: Transcending Disability In Hollywood and Beyond . “The book has been phenomenal in the sense that it has created so much — how should I say it? I came out as a gay woman, which was kind of scary for me,” she recalls. “I’ve had tons of emails from people with disabilities who are gay, who are thanking me for being their voice. I’m so thankful for being able to be exactly who I am. I think that’s what the book allowed me to do.”
She’s also getting more involved in anti-bullying activities. Jewell herself was bullied in her youth, “but I look at the kids today and the bullying because of the internet and it’s just so much worse…Truthfully, being ridiculed and made fun of in my time, it had a lot to do with giving me the drive to become a comedian. I channeled it into a different energy and made it into a positive force. That’s what I intend to communicate to kids today – the importance of how to do that. It’s a key to survival and keeping the faith. If you can spend a certain amount of time each day taking something that’s negative, that’s hurting you, and channeling the energy into something positive, you’d be surprised by the effectiveness of it.”