Actor/Speaker/Activist Diana Elizabeth Jordan is the height of inspiring. Not only does she bring something fresh, unique, and exciting to every acting role and speaking gig she takes on, but she does it all with such heart and openness. As an actor with a disability, she is adding something very new and invigorating to the film, theater, and television world. Aside from all that, Diana works as an acting coach who takes great pride in her students and all of the work that they book!
Diana is an exceptional woman who never ceases to inspire and amaze me! And I’m not just saying that because she is a cousin of mine. I’m saying it because it is absolutely, without a doubt, 100% true.
I interviewed Diana about her work in acting, speaking, and activism. She also told me about her upcoming work in The Vagina Monologues, which opens this Thursday, February 14th at 8:00 p.m., at The McCadden Place Theater (1157 McCadden, LA 90038) in Los Angeles, CA. There is a $10 cash donation at the door. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP, if you’re interested.
And here is my interview with Diana!…
How did you become interested in acting?
I honestly don’t remember when I wasn’t interested in being an actress. It was just something I always wanted to do. My father had an older sister who was an actress, my Aunt Rhoda. She passed away the year before I was born. I grew up hearing stories about how talented she was from my father, my Aunt Anna, and my Grandmother Jordan.
As an actor with a disability, do you find yourself getting cast in parts that have nothing to do with your disability? Was this always the case?
I think when it comes to non-traditional casting (casting in roles that are not disability specific) I’ve been very fortunate. With several of the films I’ve been cast in, the roles were not disability specific. I want to do both. I think it is important that writers write characters with disabilities and that those roles be played by actors with disabilities. However, there are also nondescript roles like the banker or the neighbor, for example, that have nothing to do with disability, but still have to do with telling the human story; and I want those opportunities too. I always say I see my disability not as a limitation but as a wonderful opportunity to add another dimension to the cultural diversity of the American Scene.
Are there any roles that you’d like to explore that you haven’t gotten the opportunity to be cast in yet?
There are many roles I’d like to explore. It is not like I have a list but I love playing characters that have a different point of view from my own. That is what really excites me. Bringing the authenticity to a character whose point of view I may personally disagree with is very challenging and fun.
How do you think women are portrayed in films and TV shows nowadays? Do you think there could stand to be more depth when it comes to female characters?
I think we have a mixture of both. I think we have some wonderfully complex characters, like the female characters on Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. But I’d love to see more.
Who is a female character in any movie or any TV show that you think is an example of a strong woman?
I love Marissa Hagartty’s character Olivia Benson on Law and Order SVU.
Tell us about your work as an acting coach!
I love working as an acting coach.
I enjoy guiding my students through the process of discovery. And watching the students discover things for themselves. My biggest thrill however is when a student books a job. I love that.
Recently you acted on FX’s new show, Legit. What was that experience like?
My experience on Legit was great. I was cast as Chad’s Mother. A homeless woman who has schizophrenia. The most important thing to me was playing the truth of the character and the mental illness, and I hope that I did.
You are also a motivational speaker! How did you get started on this path? And what have your speaking experiences been like?
I actually did my first speech when I was in high school. I was taking a Family Living class and I spoke to my class about growing up with a disability and I spoke to some of the other classes the teacher ( I can’t remember her name ) was teaching. It has been kind of an evolution from there for me.
I have now developed a program called DARE To DREAM the Possible Dream, where I share my experiences of how I’ve achieved my goals in hopes of inspiring others to achieve their goals.
You’ve also been involved in activism for quite some time. How has this experience shaped your life?
Activism is just a part of my life and I think there are many ways to be an activist. There are many, many injustices in the world, and activism is one way I can play a very small role in making changes in the injustices I see. It is not always about protesting something and carrying a picket sign. I have participated in dialogues and panels on issues that are important to me. I think it is very important that disability also be included in universal dialogues; for example, in women’s issues and issues of diversity.
When I am able to combine my art and my activism, that is the greatest feeling.
Tell us about your upcoming performance in The Vagina Monologues!
I am very excited about doing The Vagina Monologues and joining the One Billion Rising Movement (onebillionrising.org.)
One Billion Rising is a global call to action to end violence against women and girls. As a woman with a disability, it is important for me that disability is always visible. I love the word actorvist — the combination of the words “actor” and “activist.” As an actorvist, I use my art and my activism to speak against this deplorable epidemic. It’s something I feel called to do.
On your website, you wrote that your favorite role of all time was being an aunt to your nephews! What have you learned from being an auntie to those two adorable guys?
I love being an aunt. I love watching my little nephews grow and discover things.
I love watching them develop their relationships as brothers. I love the way they love each other, and I love the way they make me feel so loved. I really do believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and I am proud to be a member of each of my nephews’ villages.
What are your big goals for the future?
My goals are to continue to act and speak, and to continue my activism.
I am also working on my first children’s book.
To learn more about Diana, please go to: www.dianaelizabethjordan.com