Exclusive: Disabled actors take lead roles in Channel 4 drama about Shipwrecked-style reality TV

Disabled actors with a range of impairments, including blindness and dwarfism, are to take leading roles in a new drama series for Channel 4 that takes its inspiration from reality shows such as Shipwrecked and Castaway.

The new series is called Cast Offs and follows six characters – each played by an actor with a different disability – who are left to fend for themselves for a year on a remote island.

Although the series is entirely fictional, Channel 4 has said that it will be filmed in a mock-documentary style and will follow the characters as they “build their own homes, grow their own food, fall in love and fight to survive”.

In each episode, flashbacks will provide an insight into the lives of each character in the year leading up to their marooning.

“The stories will be brutally honest, sometimes poignant and often darkly comic, offering a fresh insight into the lives of disabled people living in the UK today,” a spokesman for Channel 4 explained.

Cast Offs is being written by Jack Thorne, whose other credits include Skins and Shameless. It is being made for Channel 4 by independent production company Eleven Film and is due to be broadcast later in the year.

Thorne is writing the six-part series in collaboration with The Thick of It’s Tony Roche and Alex Bulmer, who is literary manager of disabled-led theatre company Graeae.

It is understood that Thorne has been writing his script using the experiences of the series’ disabled actors, who have yet to be named.

Alison Walsh, editorial manager for disability at Channel 4, said the broadcaster had “made huge strides in casting disabled people” across all its shows, but added that the broadcaster had commissioned Cast Offs to explore a more “imaginative, brave and ambitious way to cover disability on-screen”.

“We wanted innovation in form as well as content – to really test the outer limits of disability on TV,” she said.

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