I’ve enjoyed ABC’s new crime family drama The Company You Keep. It’s about the Nicolettis, a family of con artists, who are looking to retire from the business, except the last job goes wrong and they have to continue. Alongside the cons, there’s a budding romance between Charlie Nicoletti (played by Milo Ventimiglia) and CIA agent Emma Hill (played by Catherine Haena Kim). Charlie knows she’s an agent. Emma doesn’t know he’s a criminal.
The reason I’m talking about this show here is because of a scene in episode 3, which is titled “Against All Odds.” Charlie’s sister Birdie (played by Sarah Wayne Callies) has a daughter who is Deaf. Ollie (played by Shaylee Mansfield) is a fiercely independent teen who already shows signs of fitting right into the business the family is trying to get out of. The family uses sign language when Ollie is present.
In a scene with Charlie and Birdie, Ollie teases her uncle about Emma, who she met as Emma was leaving one morning. This leads to a discussion between Birdie and Charlie where they do not sign. Ollie knocks on the dining room table and signs, “You’re being rude.” Birdie and Charlie apologize, and they all continue to tease Charlie for his choices, communicating bilingually. It’s a cute, funny family moment as everyone—including Charlie’s parents—pile on with the chiding.
Ollie’s message is the important one here as it reminds us about inclusion.
She demands the same access to the conversation that the others in the room do.
Individuals with disabilities are commonly excluded on the web because websites, multimedia, emails, and social media posts are not created with accessibility in mind.
As Ollie points out, it’s rude to exclude people. Most of us have felt hurt of exclusion at some point. As creative entrepreneurs we need to do our best to be inclusive so that we don’t hurt others and block them from our content. This is why Michele and I wrote Content for Everyone, to help creatives understand how to create inclusive content.
Let Ollie’s message to her mother and uncle be your wake up call to be more inclusive!
Actress Shaylee Mansfield: Content Creator
At age 14, Shaylee has already accomplished a lot. Back in 2013, she started a YouTube channel with her family called ASL Nook to inspire people to learn sign language. In 2019, she starred in the Disney+ holiday film Noelle opposite Anna Kendrick.
She also made history in 2022 as the first Deaf person to be credited as a voice over actress in a DreamWorks TV show, the animated Madagascar: A Little Wild. Shaylee plays a character named after her in an episode titled “Gloria’s Got Em All.” Shaylee told Girl Talk HQ “Sign language is very much a voice and equally rich as other languages.”
I have to imagine Shaylee has impacted so many, especially young people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, because they get to see themselves represented in media because of her work in these projects.
More Representation in The Company You Keep
Charlie and Birdie’s father, Leo (played by William Fichtner), lives with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It’s in early stages, with slight memory loss, and it’s one reason the family wants to exit the con business. In the first half of the series, we’ve seen Leo forget a bar order, and slip up with names during a con.
The Company You Keep doesn’t focus on deafness or Alzheimer’s, but it presents a look at a regular family (except maybe for that crime aspect) taking care of its own. It’s a reminder for viewers that people with disabilities are in the world, are smart and capable, and that any of us may become disabled at any time. As I write this, I’ve seen 6 of the 7 episodes that have aired and I’m looking forward to completing the 11 episode first season—not only for the romance and crime drama, but to see how Ollie and Leo evolve over the remaining episodes.
(Note: The image with this post is copyright 2023 by ABC/20th Television)