- The Guardian, Friday 5 June 2009
EastEnders is to feature for the first time a character who uses a wheelchair as part of a series of measures by the BBC to raise the profile of disabled actors and performers. The BBC is also launching an online directory of disabled talent, with the support of the actors' union Equity, and a nationwide search for disabled actors and performers for drama, comedy and children's shows. Adam Best, the new EastEnders character, will be played by David Proud, who was born with spina bifida. He has previously appeared in ITV2's Secret Diary of a Call Girl and CBBC's Desperados. Best, who is described as "self-possessed and a bit of snob", is an Oxford University student who arrives in Walford to visit his mother, Manda, and who falls for Libby Fox, the girlfriend of Darren Miller. He will join the BBC1 soap later this year.
The EastEnders executive producer, Diederick Santer, said: "I'm delighted to welcome David to EastEnders. He's a fine young actor with a wonderfully dry comic delivery, playing an interesting – and possibly rather irritating – character. I'm sure he, and his character Adam, will be strong additions to EastEnders.
"In recent years, we've had a number of regular and guest characters with disabilities – some of them children, like Janet Mitchell and more recently Syd's son Noah. We've also told the story of Jean Slater, who suffers from bipolar disorder. But this is the first time we've had a regular adult character with a visible disability played by an actor with a disability. It's about time."
The BBC said the new online disabled talent directory, which will be available to in-house and independent production teams, had been created with the support of talent agencies including Spotlight and the actors' union Equity. Talent Alert, the nationwide talent search, will seek out new disabled actors and performers, focusing on Manchester, Glasgow, London and Cardiff. Casting directors from the BBC will be hosting two-day workshops in each city.