Geri Jewell

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tab

About
About this interview

In her nearly two-and-a-half-hour interview, Geri Jewell discusses her early childhood and her family’s move from her birthplace, Buffalo, NY to Southern California following her cerebral palsy diagnosis. She talks about her early love of Carol Burnett and her childhood dreams of becoming a television actress. She then details her high school forays into acting and how a college friend inspired her to try standup comedy, a move that led to her meeting Norman Lear and her first television appearances. Jewell discusses her groundbreaking role on The Facts of Life, including specific episodes, working with her fellow castmates, and the cultural impact of her appearance as the first character with a disability on a television series. She touches on other television appearances, including on Norman Lear’s special I Love Liberty, on 21 Jump Street, and the made for TV movie Two of a Kind. She then tells the story of being cast on David Milch’s HBO Western series Deadwood after a chance meeting with Milch, and discusses specific episodes featuring her character, “Jewel.” She concludes by giving advice to aspiring actors, discussing her proudest career achievements and regrets, and how she’d like to be remembered. Adrienne Faillace conducted the interview on March 10, 2016 in Altadena, CA.

“I was the first visible character with a disability that was cast on a series. ... I think it was because I never saw myself as ‘disabled,’ so I didn't realize how big it was. I didn't realize that until years later, how big it really was.”

Interviewee(s)
Highlights
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on filming the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking" and how show creator/director David Milch coaxed a reaction from her
Geri Jewell on how she does not see herself as being "courageous" for doing stand-up comedy, but instead attributes it to "the theory of the bumblebee"
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her childhood and early influences; on going to a taping of The Carol Burnett Show when she was a kid and what Burnett meant to her
On acting in high school and her time in college; on her first time doing stand-up comedy; on her stand-up routine
On her relationship with Norman Lear and Ed Simmons; on being cast on The Facts of Life
On her contribution to her character on The Facts of Life and becoming a recurring character on the show; on challenges she faced navigating the entertainment industry and her own sexuality and identity

Chapter 2

On her relationship with her castmates on The Facts of Life; on her experience with "overnight fame"
On the end of her run on The Facts of Life; on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty
On appearing in the TV movie Two of a Kind; on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities; on her appearance on Sesame Street
On writing a treatment for 21 Jump Street and appearing on the episode; on being cast on Deadwood and her character on the show, "Jewel"
On working with her castmates on Deadwood; on the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking"; on finding out that Deadwood was cancelled and her career following the end of the show
On her role on The Young and the Restless; on her proudest achievements and career regrets; on advice to aspiring actors; on how she would like to be remembered
Shows

21 Jump Street

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on writing a treatment for 21 Jump Street and appearing on the episode

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78)

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on attending a taping of The Carol Burnett Show when she was a kid and why Carol Burnett meant so much to her

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78): "Went with the Wind!" Sketch

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on attending a taping of The Carol Burnett Show when she was a kid and why Carol Burnett meant so much to her

Deadwood

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on how she came to be cast on Deadwood
Geri Jewell on deciding, after much deliberation, that she would be willing to do a nude scene on Deadwood, but then never being asked to do one
Geri Jewell on her character on Deadwood, "Jewel," and the fact that she wrote "Jewel's" backstory
Geri Jewell on filming a particularly challenging scene on Deadwood where she had to dance
Geri Jewell on the romance between "Doc" and "Jewel" that never came to be on Deadwood
Geri Jewell on the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking"
Geri Jewell on how she learned that Deadwood had been cancelled and her career following the cancellation

Facts of Life, The

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on being cast on The Facts of Life and having to dance on the first episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
Geri Jewell on her contribution to her character on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on her experiences on The Facts of Life and her challenges navigating the entertainment industry
Geri Jewell on The Facts of Life producer Al Burton advising her when her manager stole her money
Geri Jewell on her relationship with her castmates on The Facts of Life, particularly Lisa Welchel
Geri Jewell on the end of her run on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life

Sesame Street

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street

Young and the Restless, The

View Show Page
Geri Jewell on her role on The Young and the Restless
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors

Classic TV series episodes

View Topic
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")

Comedy

View Topic
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")

Diversity in Television

View Topic
Geri Jewell on dreaming of being a television actress when she was young, and how this dream related to her cerebral palsy
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
Geri Jewell on the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
Geri Jewell on filming the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking" and how show creator/director David Milch coaxed a reaction from her
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Geri Jewell on why there was an expectation she would be nominated for Emmys for her work on The Facts of Life, and why she thinks she never was

Fame & Celebrity

View Topic
Geri Jewell on the challenges she faced when her manager stole the money she earned from The Facts of Life and how the show's producer Al Burton tried to help her
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability

First Big Break

View Topic
Geri Jewell on how a college friend inspired her to try stand-up comedy at the Comedy Store, which led to her breaking into television

Overcoming Adversity

View Topic
Geri Jewell on how she does not see herself as being "courageous" for doing stand-up comedy, but instead attributes it to "the theory of the bumblebee"
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
Geri Jewell on being made a recurring character on The Facts of Life, then her role being downsized, and her challenges navigating the entertainment industry and her own sexuality and identity
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
Geri Jewell on filming a particularly challenging scene on Deadwood where she had to dance

People with Disabilities

View Topic
Geri Jewell on dreaming of being a television actress when she was young, and how this dream related to her cerebral palsy
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
Geri Jewell on the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
Geri Jewell on filming the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking" and how show creator/director David Milch coaxed a reaction from her
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors

Pivotal Career Moments

View Topic
Geri Jewell on how a college friend inspired her to try stand-up comedy at the Comedy Store, which led to her breaking into television
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
Geri Jewell on how she does not see herself as being "courageous" for doing stand-up comedy, but instead attributes it to "the theory of the bumblebee"
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
Geri Jewell on being made a recurring character on The Facts of Life, then her role being downsized, and her challenges navigating the entertainment industry and her own sexuality and identity
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
Geri Jewell on filming a particularly challenging scene on Deadwood where she had to dance

Pop Culture

View Topic
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")

Television Industry

View Topic
Geri Jewell on the challenges she faced when her manager stole the money she earned from The Facts of Life and how the show's producer Al Burton tried to help her
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
Professions

Actress

View Profession
Geri Jewell on filming the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking" and how show creator/director David Milch coaxed a reaction from her
Geri Jewell on what she loves about performing and her hopes for her career as she ages
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors

Comedian

View Profession
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine

Performers

View Profession
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
Geri Jewell on filming the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking" and how show creator/director David Milch coaxed a reaction from her
Geri Jewell on what she loves about performing and her hopes for her career as she ages
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
Genres

Children's Programming

View Genre
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street

Comedy Series

View Genre
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on being cast on The Facts of Life and having to dance on the episode "Cousin Geri" (the first episode on which she appeared)
Geri Jewell on navigating her way personally and professionally while appearing on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on her relationship with her fellow castmates on The Facts of Life, particularly Lisa Welchel
Geri Jewell on the end of her run on The Facts of Life
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Geri Jewell on writing a treatment for 21 Jump Street and appearing on the episode

Daytime/Primetime Serials

View Genre
Geri Jewell on her role on The Young and the Restless

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Geri Jewell on appearing in the TV movie Two of a Kind

Western Series

View Genre
Geri Jewell on how she came to be cast on Deadwood
Geri Jewell on her character on Deadwood, "Jewel," and the fact that she wrote "Jewel's" backstory
On working with her castmates on Deadwood and a particularly challenging scene where she had to dance
Geri Jewell on the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking"
Geri Jewell on how she learned that Deadwood had been cancelled and her career following the cancellation
People

Carol Burnett

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on attending a taping of The Carol Burnett Show when she was a kid and why Carol Burnett meant so much to her

Sid Caesar

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on her relationship with Norman Lear and Ed Simmons and a show she and Simmons tried to sell starring Jewell and Sid Caesar

Stephen J. Cannell

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on Stephen J. Cannell telling her that he had dyslexia, and how this led to her later contacting him about a treatment she wrote for 21 Jump Street

Asaad Kelada

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on her relationship with Asaad Kelada who directed her on The Facts of Lifeand his take on the end of her time on the show

Norman Lear

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on her relationship with Norman Lear and Ed Simmons and a show she and Simmons tried to sell starring Jewell and Sid Caesar
Geri Jewell on Norman Lear's role in her career, including casting her on his special I Love Liberty

David Milch

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on how she came to be cast on Deadwood after a chance meeting with David Milch at a pharmacy
Geri Jewell on filming the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking" and how show creator/director David Milch coaxed a reaction from her

Ed Simmons

View Person Page
Geri Jewell on her relationship with Norman Lear and Ed Simmons and a show she and Simmons tried to sell starring Jewell and Sid Caesar

Caroll Spinney

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street with Carroll Spinney (who plays Big Bird)

All Interviews

Q
S