We’d like to introduce you to Shannon DeVido, an accomplished actor, comedian, writer and singer. She has appeared on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Difficult People, Law and Order: SVU and Sesame Street. She also creates her own content for her YouTube channel, “Stare at Shannon” where she breaks societal standards of disability through humor. Shannon serves at the Initiative Director for the Blackmagic Collective All Access Initiative which is focused on helping disabled writers and directors create valuable contacts with key players in the industry and helps inform executives about the need for more authentic representation of disabilities both behind and in front of the camera.
Los Angeles Post Production Group: What got you interested in going into entertainment?
Shannon DeVido: When I was a kid I wanted to be an athlete but my disability had other ideas. So, I found theater and it just felt like home. I loved the people, I loved creating, I loved going places and being different people. When I graduated college, I knew I needed to become an actor. My journey has been a twisty turny one, but once I found comedy, I knew that was the path I wanted to follow.
LAPPG: How would you describe you style of humor?
SD: I think it’s sarcastic and self-deprecating but while holding a mirror to the ridiculousness of our society. It’s often silly but I also try to remain positive. My improv team and people I’ve met doing comedy throughout the years have really help shaped who I am as a comedian. I’ve been so lucky to work with some of the most talented and creative comics in the world and I’m so grateful for their work and influence.
LAPPG: This is certainly an important time in Hollywood for both what and who we are seeing in front of as well as behind the camera. How much has the industry changed in terms of including people with disabilities since you started?
SD: It’s definitely improving. When I was first starting I couldn’t tell you any series regulars with disabilities, but now you see people pop up more and more. Behind the camera, I think it is taking a bit longer. There was a study recently that like 0.7% of writers in Hollywood identify as having a disability, which is horrifying. There is still a lot of work to be done, but there is some more light at the end of the tunnel than before.
LAPPG: Can you share with us how and why the Blackmagic Collective All Access Initiative was started and the role you play?
SD: All Access was started out of the need to open more doors for writers and directors with disabilities. We really need to look out for each other because there are many writers out there with excellent work. They just need the connections to break through.
LAPPG: What are you most excited about for the Blackmagic Collective All Access Initiative and how do you see it opening up opportunities?
SD: I think what I am most excited about is hopefully seeing these amazing writers get work from this program. They all deserve to be staffed and I’m really excited to introduce the industry to them.
LAPPG: Are there any particular products Blackmagic Design makes that help you as a filmmaker?
SD: I am a huge fan of my Blackmagic Cinema Pocket Camera 6K. It’s truly a level of professional camera that I could never have dreamed of owning, but Blackmagic believes in their independent creators so much that they made it an attainable reality.
LAPPG: Has landing on the inaugural list of The Casting Society of America’s Top 20 Actors from historically underrepresented communities for 2020 given you hope that Hollywood is on its way to becoming more inclusive?
SD: It’s definitely an amazing sign that they are working hard to make change.
LAPPG: Can you talk about why you started to make your own content?
SD: I got tired of sitting around and waiting for someone to give me opportunities, so I started making my own stuff. Plus, I also just really love making content with my friends. They are full of incredible ideas and passion, it’s a dream to work with them. Doing that full time is the goal, so at least we can do it on a small scale.
LAPPG: What are the major roadblocks, if any, to creating your own content?
SD: Money. It’s always money. Haha.
LAPPG: What would you like producers, directors, and casting directors to know about including people with disabilities in their projects?
SD: When you include diverse groups it not only makes your project fuller, it reflects how our society looks. That’s so important because everyone deserves to see themselves represented.
LAPPG: This is a hard industry and rejection is such a huge part of this business. What keeps you going to audition after audition?
SD: My family and friends, the knowledge that this is what I was meant to do, and a lot of cookies. Mostly cookies.