Lola Olson is Scope’s Interim Digital Content Manager. For our End the Awkward campaign, Lola got to interview film star Warwick Davis. Lola tells us what it was like meeting a childhood hero.
I stopped growing when I was three. Medically this is called a “failure to thrive”.
My parents could not afford health insurance, so since I was three I’ve taken injections of growth hormone given to me as a charity donation.
My disabled childhood film heroes
Films and television shows meant a lot to me as a kid, and they still do. I’d often watch them over and over to memorise every word. Seeing people with the same conditions or situations as me made me feel less worried about my disorder.
Last year, I got to meet a big hero of mine at the Destination Star Trek convention. LeVar Burton plays Geordi La Forge, a blind engineer who wears a “Visual Instrument and Sensory Organ Replacement” or VISOR allowing him to “see” using electromagnetic signals.
I was born blind in my left eye but when I was about ten, my vision rapidly decreased and my eye doctor said I was going to be completely blind very soon.
Seeing Geordi La Forge in Star Trek made that a lot less scary for me because, even though he isn’t “blind” with his VISOR, I still felt like if Geordi La Forge was blind, it wasn’t such a bad thing to be. I was glad to be able to tell LeVar Burton what it meant to me to see a disabled character play a prominent role on the starship Enterprise.
Meeting and interviewing Warwick Davis
This year, as part of Scope’s End the Awkward campaign, I had the privilege to interview Warwick Davis, another one of my childhood heroes. Davis is the star of Willow, a 1980s fantasy film where Willow saves a special baby from an evil queen. There are a lot of things I like about Willow. It contains strong female characters, for one.
Davis, along with other actors with dwarfism, play a race called the “Nelwyns” who are a diverse bunch of nice and not so nice people. Average sized people, such as Mad Martigan played by Val Kilmer, aren’t called “humans”, thankfully. Instead, they’re called “Daikinis”. In most films, average sizes folk play “humans” while actors with dwarfism play other worldly creatures. Being like a Nelwyn was a compliment, not something that would make me inhuman.
I often used films and television shows to understand myself better. I understood that Willow, and all of the Nelwyns, had something like I had. Warwick Davis playing a hero in his own right sent the message to me as a kid that I had nothing to worry about. Even if I ended up being shorter than most of my peers, you don’t need to be tall or large to be a hero.
I met Warwick while he was being filmed for our awkward moments film. The filming day was a bit hectic, with Warwick popping in between a speaking engagement, but it was also slightly surreal. I nearly had to pinch myself as I sat in the background as an extra.
My interview with Warwick lasted for 15 minutes, but it passed by as quick as 15 seconds. I didn’t have much time to be nervous. But I did have time to laugh at his jokes and absorb him talking about how important it is for people to approach life with a fair amount of humour.
Shortly after my interview, I got an extra 30 seconds to exclaim my love for Willow before Warwick went to talk to a packed room of Oxford students about End the Awkward and some of his upcoming film work.
I want more heroes in films
Today, because of my growth hormone treatments, I’m 5’1″ (and proud to be short!). I don’t really say I have dwarfism because there are clearly a huge set of obstacles I don’t have to face and that I could never really speak about.
I do know how important it was to see someone like Willow in a feature film not hidden behind a costume. Many actors with dwarfism end up in roles where they wear full body costumes or heavy makeup. The fact that seeing Warwick be in a film more or less as himself was important to me leads me to believe that it must also be important to others with conditions like mine.
I can only hope that in the future more varieties of roles with depth will be offered to disabled actors so that more disabled people can see themselves represented in positive ways.
For more information about our End the Awkward campaign please visit the End the Awkward page. Do you have an awkward story? We’d love to hear it. Share your awkward story with us or tweet us your experiences of awkward using #EndTheAwkward.