Geri Jewell

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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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.”

Highlights
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
02:36
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
03:55
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"
01:49
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
04:14
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street
04:24
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
14:51
On acting in high school and her time in college; on her first time doing stand-up comedy; on her stand-up routine
14:42
On her relationship with Norman Lear and Ed Simmons; on being cast on The Facts of Life
11:24
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
17:41

Chapter 2

On her relationship with her castmates on The Facts of Life; on her experience with "overnight fame"
08:21
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
12:51
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
11:49
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"
23:20
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
16:09
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
09:42
Shows

21 Jump Street

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Geri Jewell on writing a treatment for 21 Jump Street and appearing on the episode
07:28

Carol Burnett Show, The (1967-78)

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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
04:16

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

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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
04:16

Deadwood

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Geri Jewell on how she came to be cast on Deadwood
05:43
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
01:51
Geri Jewell on her character on Deadwood, "Jewel," and the fact that she wrote "Jewel's" backstory
08:15
Geri Jewell on filming a particularly challenging scene on Deadwood where she had to dance
03:40
Geri Jewell on the romance between "Doc" and "Jewel" that never came to be on Deadwood
01:30
Geri Jewell on the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking"
05:56
Geri Jewell on how she learned that Deadwood had been cancelled and her career following the cancellation
04:28

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
02:36
Geri Jewell on being cast on The Facts of Life and having to dance on the first episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
04:30
Geri Jewell on her contribution to her character on The Facts of Life
00:57
Geri Jewell on her experiences on The Facts of Life and her challenges navigating the entertainment industry
10:39
Geri Jewell on The Facts of Life producer Al Burton advising her when her manager stole her money
04:13
Geri Jewell on her relationship with her castmates on The Facts of Life, particularly Lisa Welchel
01:28
Geri Jewell on the end of her run on The Facts of Life
06:32
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life
06:18

Sesame Street

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Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street
04:24

Young and the Restless, The

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Geri Jewell on her role on The Young and the Restless
01:12
Topics

Advice

View Topic
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
02:45

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")
03:26

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")
03:26

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
01:36
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
05:57
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
02:36
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
03:26
Geri Jewell on the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability on The Facts of Life
03:54
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
02:54
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty
06:18
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
04:14
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
02:33
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
03:55
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
02:45

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
01:40

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
04:13
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
02:29

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
05:15

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"
01:49
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
03:26
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
10:40
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
02:33
Geri Jewell on filming a particularly challenging scene on Deadwood where she had to dance
03:40

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
01:36
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
05:57
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
02:36
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
03:26
Geri Jewell on the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability on The Facts of Life
03:54
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
02:54
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty
06:18
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
04:14
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
02:33
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
03:55
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
02:45

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
05:15
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
05:57
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"
01:49
Geri Jewell on having to perform a dance number on the first The Facts of Life episode on which she appeared ("Cousin Geri")
03:26
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
10:40
Geri Jewell on the difficulty she faced while filming a scene with Peter DeLuise on 21 Jump Street
02:33
Geri Jewell on filming a particularly challenging scene on Deadwood where she had to dance
03:40

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")
03:26

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
04:13
Geri Jewell on her experience with "overnight fame" and the impact of her visibility as a person with a disability
02:54
Geri Jewell on her feelings about actors without disabilities playing characters with disabilities
04:14
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
02:45
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
03:55
Geri Jewell on what she loves about performing and her hopes for her career as she ages
03:12
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
02:45

Comedian

View Profession
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
05:57

Performers

View Profession
Geri Jewell on the first time she did stand-up comedy, and how she talked about cerebral palsy in her routine
05:57
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
03:55
Geri Jewell on what she loves about performing and her hopes for her career as she ages
03:12
Geri Jewell on advice for aspiring actors
02:45
Genres

Children's Programming

View Genre
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street
04:24

Comedy Series

View Genre
Geri Jewell on being the first visible character with a disability on a television series on The Facts of Life
02:36
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)
04:30
Geri Jewell on navigating her way personally and professionally while appearing on The Facts of Life
14:53
Geri Jewell on her relationship with her fellow castmates on The Facts of Life, particularly Lisa Welchel
01:28
Geri Jewell on the end of her run on The Facts of Life
06:32
Geri Jewell on the impact of her role on The Facts of Life and appearing on Norman Lear's special I Love Liberty
06:18

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

View Genre
Geri Jewell on writing a treatment for 21 Jump Street and appearing on the episode
07:28

Daytime/Primetime Serials

View Genre
Geri Jewell on her role on The Young and the Restless
01:12

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
06:18

TV Movies/Miniseries/Dramatic Specials

View Genre
Geri Jewell on appearing in the TV movie Two of a Kind
03:00

Western Series

View Genre
Geri Jewell on how she came to be cast on Deadwood
07:35
Geri Jewell on her character on Deadwood, "Jewel," and the fact that she wrote "Jewel's" backstory
08:15
On working with her castmates on Deadwood and a particularly challenging scene where she had to dance
03:40
Geri Jewell on the Deadwood episode "Jewel's Boot Is Made for Walking"
05:56
Geri Jewell on how she learned that Deadwood had been cancelled and her career following the cancellation
04:28
People

Carol Burnett

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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
04:16

Sid Caesar

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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
04:16

Stephen J. Cannell

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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
01:09

Asaad Kelada

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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
00:45

Norman Lear

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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
04:16
Geri Jewell on Norman Lear's role in her career, including casting her on his special I Love Liberty
04:28

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
05:43
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
03:55

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
04:16

Caroll Spinney

View Interview Page
Geri Jewell on "decapitating Big Bird" when she appeared on Sesame Street with Carroll Spinney (who plays Big Bird)
04:24

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