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What’s Bugging Seth 

Jennifer Latham Robinson

Many of us remember the 1994 blockbuster film Forrest Gump, and the intense performance by Gary Sinise as Lieutenant Dang, a bilateral lower limb amputee.   Regardless of how impressive Sinise’s performance was, there was one glaring flaw:  Gary Sinise is not an amputee in reality. His lower limbs were removed by animators using computer graphics. 

Why not use an actual amputee to play an amputee in a film?  Television and films rarely use disabled actors to play disabled characters and usually opt for bigger named, able-bodied celebrities.  The severe lack of disabled actors in Hollywood is due, in part, to type casting.  Plots involving disabled characters usually revolve around the disability.  Roles are limited for disabled actors and a successful acting career is only achieved by a handful of people with obvious disabilities.      

What’s Bugging Seth, released to theaters in 2005, was the winner at eight film festivals and filmed entirely in California.  Seth Singer (Ross Thomas), a driven young hearing impaired man, struggles with this business career and finds love with Alma (Amy Purdy), a bilateral below knee amputee. The two find romance and bond over their disabilities.   

Purdy was 19 and living in Las Vegas when she was diagnosed with Neisseria Meningitis, after suddenly experiencing flu-like symptoms.   

After suffering septic shock, Purdy experienced renal failure and loss of circulation throughout her body.  Despite being given only a 2% chance of survival, Purdy did eventually recover.  The loss of circulation did cause permanent damage to both of her legs, which were amputated below the knees.  Years later she also received a kidney transplant from her father.

After surviving this ordeal, Purdy challenged herself to move forward with her life and become active in the disabled community.  A grant through The Challenged Athlete Foundation (CAF) enabled her to travel extensively to participate in national snowboarding competitions.  Purdy has modeled for advertisements for Freedom Innovations, a manufacturer of prosthetic components, and was featured in a Madonna music video, where she played a runway model.  Purdy can also be found modeling in Fugue Magazine, a magazine dedicated to art, culture, and music.  She learned of the casting for What’s Bugging Seth from her prosthetist.  The casting called for a young female bilateral lower extremity amputee with red hair and a classic look… Purdy definitely fits the bill.

What’s Bugging Seth received glowing reviews by many and Purdy’s performance may catapult her into mainstream roles.  Until then, Purdy will be busy with the non-profit organization she developed, Adaptive Action Sports (AAS), which empowers disabled athletes to participate in extreme and adaptive sports. 

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