Web series raises awareness for people with disabilities, still underrepresented in media landscape

By David Martel

Donna On The Go is a thoughtful and whimsical web series, “designed to raise awareness for people with disability challenges.” The show follows the life of Donna Reed (portrayed by Donna Russo), a former dancer. Reed’s dependence on a wheelchair and walker for mobility presents unique daily challenges and coinciding storylines. To the best of her ability she overcomes the obstacles in her path.

Creator and Executive Producer Peggy Lane explains the early inspiration for the series was her aging parents’ struggle with mobility.  She came to know Russo while on a shopping excursion – Donna on a mobility scooter with Peggy by her side – and they found humor in the experience. On the spot they taped a bit, and the series was born.

Reflecting on the third season, Lane feels grateful for the show’s supportive cast and crew, including Kate Linder (The Young and The Restless), Robert Catrini (American Crime Story) and Roberta Bassin (Shameless). Producers Craig Hutchison, JC Henning, Vince Deadrick Jr. and Marbry Steward have been with the show since Season 2.  She is particularly proud of a storyline including five actors with disabilities, wherein language and labels surrounding disability are discussed frankly. Lane wrote and directed that episode.

Peggy Lane, “Donna On The Go”

Creator / Executive Producer / Writer / Director.

 

Photos by Patsy Dunn

Guest cast includes Nicolas Noblitt (Ramy), Eileen Grubba (Watchmen), Shannon Dieriex (I/O) and Billy Ford (Space Junk). Also in the third season is “Ninjas,” Directed by renowned Stunt Coordinator Vince Deadrick Jr. It features Donna fending off 12 martial arts warriors without ever leaving her wheelchair.

Another episode called “Judge” was Written by Lane and Directed by Craig Hutchison.  In it, Donna Russo plays Judge Judy and literally throws the book at someone.

There’s even an ABBA lip sync to “Mamma Mia” featuring Kate Linder, Emmy® winner Kim Estes, Robert Catrini, and Donna Russo complete with disco costumes and lights.

The show is seeking a larger subscriber base on its YouTube channel. On that platform and others they have close to half a million views. They have an international following and have fans in Japan, Asia, and New Zealand.

Robyn Powell, an attorney and writer who is disabled, advocates for Hollywood to do its part in raising awareness of disability on-screen. Powell explains on HuffPost, “Although 56 million people, who compromise nearly 20 percent of the population, have a disability, it’s rare to see disabled characters in film and television.” She adds that many characters are played by non-disabled performers.

Donna On The Go makes a distinct and human contribution to the landscape. Lane explains that her experience of working on Will and Grace with industry legendary director James Burrows, “showed me how you can take an audience that is unfamiliar and seemingly not invested…and with humor you can actually enlighten people.”

Most fulfilling, according to Lane, has been the reception to the show at the Abilities Expo, a convention for the disability community where Russo is an ambassador. “Where else can you look at a show and say, ‘That’s me?’” she says.

“Donna On The Go” can be watched at Donna-On-The-Go.com or YouTube.com.

From “Donna On The Go” are Producers Donna Russo (front, seated) and (rear, L-R) Kate Linder, JC Henning, Peggy Lane, Marbry Steward, and Vince Deadrick Jr.

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