Paraplegic character debuts on ‘90210’Nov 21 03:48
I may be too burnt out on the genre, but if you're a fan of gushy primetime soap operas, have a soft spot in your heart for 90210 AND are interested in characters with disabilities in the media (television and movies, etc), then Riley (played by Riley Smith of '24,' 'Motocrosser' and 'Freak & Geeks' fame) is a character you need to get hip to.
He's only been on the newly revamped 90210 series for 1 ½ months now (they‘re in their 5th season), and sadly….he is not actually a paraplegic in real life (boo). This of course is not all that surprising, considering Hollywood’s past of avoiding using actors with disabilities in recurring roles (preferring known able-bodied actors, having them pretend to be disabled instead).
With that said however, his portrayal of Riley Smith, a hunky guy in a wheelchair with bedroom eyes, is one of the most accurate I’ve seen. He prepped for two months prior to filming and practiced being in a wheelchair around his house and neighborhood. He even consulted with Tiphany Adams from Push Girls (the feisty paraplegic on the show) to pick her brain on how to make his portrayal as accurate as possible.
He's a 34 year old actor who grew up in Iowa, so maybe I have a soft spot for him because he's near my age and grew up in the same region I did, but I'm pretty impressed by his wheelchair prepping. His knees hit one another while he's pushing, he uses a Colours wheelchair, and he really enjoyed studying how people treat him different.
How his character is introduced: One of the main characters in the show (Dixon) gets injured in a car accident and has to go to rehab because of a spinal cord injury. It is in physical therapy where he meets Riley's character. Riley's snarky behavior is based on Dr. House character from House (who got the sort-of angry, sassy cripple thing down pat). And it is through one of Dixon's friends where he meets Annie, his soon-to-be love interest (you knew that was going to happen).
What I love about the show is that they're already tackling sex, and they’ve made Riley's character not desperate (thank you writers). In fact, he's more of a girl, pushing away Annie for various reasons. And if you search the Internet to see what fans think however, they're not quite happy with Riley’s arrival. Not because of Riley being in a wheelchair though. Apparently, there's another character (Liam) fans would rather see Annie with. It’ll be interesting to see if a paraplegic character can win over their hearts.
While Riley is being portrayed really great right now, my fear is that they will give him some miraculous recovery story (which he‘s alluded to interviews). Oh God please no….would just kill it for me. I’m giving it a 70/20 possibility.
If you're interested in following Riley (and the rest of the sexy, crazy gang of 90210), you can tune into new episode’s each Monday night on the CW network.
Have you watched the show? What do you think of Riley?
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.