When Nyle DiMarco learned that Henry Zaga, a hearing actor, was cast in CBS ALL Access’s new series The Stand as Nick Andros, who is described as a “deaf-mute” in the Stephen King novel the show is based on, he was angered.
At 30, the Queens-born model and TV personality is best known for winning America’s Next Top Model in 2015 and taking home the Dancing with the Stars Mirrorball Trophy in 2016. But perhaps most importantly, DiMarco, who identifies as sexually fluid, is also an activist for Deaf people like himself. He’s used to addressing issues central to the Deaf community, but Zaga’s upcoming role flummoxed him for a number of reasons.
For one, he began to think that the tide was shifting on this sort of negligent casting. In January, The Good Place’s Jameela Jamil turned down a Deaf role telling the Press Association it “wouldn’t be appropriate” for her to take on the part, and that she hopes the role will go to “a brilliant Deaf woman.” And in July, Marvel announced that they had cast Lauren Ridloff, a Deaf actress who is Mexican and Black, in the role of Makkari in their upcoming Eternals movie, a role that was written as a hearing white man in the original 1976 comic.
But despite these advancements, DiMarco predicted the wrong person could be cast in The Stand and reached out to Josh Boone—its executive producer, writer, and director—in an effort to circumvent what he considers a grave misstep. Boone ignored his outreach. When DiMarco then tried reaching out to Zaga, both publicly and privately, his messages also went ignored, his comments hastily deleted.
OprahMag.com sat down with DiMarco to gain his perspective on the problem, the solution, and, in a slight but relevant pivot, what Democratic candidates he’s got his eye on ahead of the 2020 election.