Kyra Sedgwick and the lighter side of disability in “All of Me”

It’s been over 40 years since Kyra Sedgwick made her television debut on the soap opera “Another World.” She recounted her lines from her initial scene: “Oh, my God: ‘I’m on the road with a rock group, Grandma. It’s called The Deep Six’,” she chuckled. “I was 16 years old, and that’s when I fell head over heels with acting.”In the decades that followed, she’s co-starred in films such as “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Mr. and Mrs. Bridge,” and “Singles.” She led the popular TV series “The Closer,” and she’s directed for both cinema and television. So, what is Kyra Sedgwick doing in a 157-seat Off-Broadway theater? “I adore the play,” she elaborated, “and it feels like we’re addressing significant issues that don’t receive much attention, which is disability, but we’re framing it within this extraordinary rom-com and, you know, a family dysfunction narrative – which is my passion!”

In “All of Me” by playwright Laura Winters, Sedgwick portrays Connie, the blue-collar mother of Lucy, who uses a scooter and primarily communicates through text-to-speech technology – as does Lucy’s love interest, Alfonso. Sedgwick remarked, “I think people might fear that having two individuals in wheelchairs means the story will be sorrowful, but it’s far from that. It’s uproarious.”

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Madison Ferris and Kyra Sedgwick in the Off-Broadway comedic play “All of Me.”

Madison Ferris and Danny J. Gomez are cast as the romantic leads. They appreciate the play for not indulging in what has been termed “inspiration porn,” which Gomez described as, “Look at this disabled person, they just scored the basket at the end, and everyone lifts them up, and you know, it’s like, They’re so inspirational!”

Ferris added, “Or they possess a unique ability that no one else can replicate. They might have never hacked a computer in their life, and then once they become disabled, that’s their primary skill.”

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Madison Ferris and Danny J. Gomez in “All of Me.”

The play delves into the often-low expectations imposed on disabled individuals, a reality both Ferris and Gomez are intimately familiar with. “I had a mountain biking incident that left me paralyzed from the waist down,” Gomez shared. “I felt like nothing in life was achievable. But as individuals with disabilities, we are the greatest adapters of life. We adapt to any circumstance.”

Ferris remarked, “I think my mom kind of expected me to remain home and live with her. And boy, did I prove her wrong!”Ferris, who has muscular dystrophy, surpassed those expectations, making her professional debut on Broadway alongside Sally Field in “The Glass Menagerie.”

The dynamic between parent and child is something Sedgwick has contemplated deeply since her own two children with her spouse, actor Kevin Bacon, left home. When asked to complete the phrase “If you’ve done your job as a mother, then…” Sedgwick responded: “Your children leave. Yeah, your children leave. They don’t need you the same way; they can manage without you, which is kind of heartbreaking! I mean, I will always wake up in the morning thinking about them. But they don’t require me for their daily lives.”

Sedgwick and Bacon have been wed for over 35 years. She mentions that her family’s solidity is vastly different from what she experienced growing up: “They’re very different. I mean, there’s no denying. My father left when I was two-and-a-half and left my mom with three children. I mean, I just believe there’s trauma there, right? No one gets out unscathed by trauma. No one does.”

When Sedgwick was six, her mother remarried renowned art collector Ben Heller. “It felt like an entirely different world,” Sedgwick recalled. “We’d been, you know, children who played tag in the house, and I was a real tomboy. And then suddenly, there were Rothkos, Pollocks, and Gottliebs, and we had to be cautious, because we were surrounded by significant art. And that was clear. Like, This is important art, so you should be significant too.”

Once she demonstrated talent, the expectations from her parents increased. “Once I started acting,” she said, “I felt their focus shift in a way that felt quite intense, actually! I believe they had high expectations for me, and I had high expectations of myself.”

And does she think those heightened expectations were beneficial? “Well, I think it has paid off,” she noted. “At, you know, 57, 58, I’m producing a lot of projects that will be prominent, and directing things that will be prominent. And I guess the lesson for me is, don’t believe people when they tell you, ‘You really shouldn’t even attempt. Others are better than you at that.’ Stand up and be counted. You have a lot to offer.”

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The cast of “All of Me,” from left: Madison Ferris, Florencia Lozano, Kyra Sedgwick, Lily Mae Harrington, Danny J. Gomez, and Brian Morabito.

For more info: Story produced by Amol Mhatre. Editor: Carole Ross.

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Mo Rocca

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Mo Rocca is an acclaimed correspondent for “CBS News Sunday Morning,” where he covers a diverse range of topics. Rocca is also the host and creator of the popular podcast “Mobituaries,” and the host of the CBS Saturday morning series “The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation.”

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