Episode 42 Transcript

Published: Thursday April 11, 2024

Rewriting the Script on Disability | Joci Scott, ‘The Rollettes’ and ‘Disability Film Challenge’ Star

Welcome Joci Scott: Crafting New Roles in Hollywood


Alycia Anderson: Welcome to Pushing Forward with Alycia, a podcast that gives disability a voice. Each week we will explore topics like confidence, ambition, resilience and finding success against all odds. We are creating a collective community that believes that all things are possible for all people.

Open hearts. Clear paths. Let’s go.

Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia. I’m Alycia Anderson. We are a disability podcast that’s creating space for awesome and regular conversations today in our society about all these amazing stories and speaking of stories, I know this amazing person who is our guest today, Joci Scott.

Joci, I am so happy that you’re making your debut on my podcast. Thank you so much for your time today. I’m thrilled that you’re here. Welcome to our show.

Joci Scott: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to chat with you.

Alycia Anderson: I know that you are an actor. You’re a singer. You’re an amazing dancer on the Rollettes team. That’s where you and I have met. You’re a content creator. Your disability representation advocate, I think maybe looking in the rear view mirror for a minute is a good place to start.

Joci Scott: Yeah, absolutely. From a young age, I was in love with acting and performing. I grew up doing theater camps and that was kind of where I got my start in the acting world, in Community theater and my high school theater. And once I got bit by that bug, like there was no going back. So I kept, you know, trying to like, go on to like a more serious career path, especially in college, but nothing could keep me away from the stage.

And so, when I became paralyzed in a plane crash in 2019, that was kind of… there definitely was a moment of, am I ever going to be able to do what I love again?

Because I remember lying in the hospital bed watching Friends and thinking to myself, I don’t see people in wheelchairs on the TV shows that I like in the movies that I like, unless they’re like a hospital patient or something.

And that was like devastating to me because that was what I wanted to do with my life. And so I went through the whole hospital motions, the rehab, the physical therapy and I came home from the hospital, and my local community theater reached out to me and said, hey, we want somebody to come round out the ensemble in our holiday show.

And, at first I was hesitant because I had just gotten back from the hospital, so I was still figuring out how to use my wheelchair. I had to lay down during the day like I couldn’t sit up for very long without being in pain, and I was still really just figuring things out.

So, I was like I don’t know if this is going to look good… like I don’t know if I can give you guys a good performance, and they’re like, no, no, no. We just want you like, we’ll figure out the rest. We just want you.

And that was really, like encouraging to me. So I did it. I went ahead and performed in the show, it was like a three-month rehearsal process and I figured out choreography with the director. We ended up looking at videos of the Rollettes to kind of see how to adapt choreography and we just experimented, like what looked good. How did the choreography translate to my wheelchair, and it ended up being really good.

I mean, if I watched it now, I would probably be like, ewh, why did I do that? But looking back on that experience, it was such a special experience because it was like a break from the grieving process and the figuring out life like it was just something I could do for fun.

And then also, the cast and crew was so accepting and willing to work with me. And that really gave me the encouragement to push on, to push forward and, you know, continue doing this because if a small town in Ohio can be accepting and figure this out, then we can make Hollywood do the same so.

Alycia Anderson: They reached out to you while you were going through your healing process and kind of learning how to navigate this new life. And, they saw in you this beautiful talent and they opened up the door for you to have that experience. And I think that story by itself is so powerful, specifically in in the work that you’re doing in film. So, it sounds like that’s kind of what gave you your determination like in the beginning to dip your toe in and see how it goes.

Joci Scott: Yeah, 100%. I love telling that story because it was just it was truly such a special experience, and a light in the darkness for sure.

Alycia Anderson: A light in the darkness. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. That’s beautiful.

So, you transitioned from life filled with theater. Dance came into your life. You mentioned the Rollettes. Can you talk a little bit about how, how… did this transform your life?

I know how it’s transformed your life. I love following you all, and all the beautiful things that you’re doing, but can you share a little bit about discovering the team? The impact on your career? And really, the impact just on your own self? Kind of transitioning from in this new life?

Joci Scott: The Rollettes is a women’s empowerment group and wheelchair dance team that aims to empower women with disabilities to live boundlessly and shift perspectives globally.

To me, the Rollettes has really shaped who I am as a young adult now. I joined the Rollettes in 2021 as a little sister, which is a part-time team member.

So the little sisters, you don’t have to live in California, you can be out of state, which is how I got involved through social media. I actually started taking private dance lessons from Chelsie on zoom during the pandemic. And that was how I got connected with her. And she was like, are you going to move to LA anytime soon? And I was like, I don’t know.

So that was another like, kind of encouragement, another boost for me to kind of take this leap so. I made the jump. I moved to LA in 2021 with my now husband. We were engaged at the time and I just jumped right in. I said, what can I do?

I am so inspired by this mission of the Rollettes and I had my first Rollettes Experience that year and that was truly when my eyes were open.

So, for those of you who don’t know, Rollettes Experience is our yearly women’s empowerment weekend. We have women with disabilities come into LA from all over the world and connect with each other and take dance classes, a make-up seminar. There’s an after party. There’s a pool party. It’s just a great weekend of community and bonding.

And the first time I rolled into that ballroom, it was like, whoa, because I never seen that many wheelchair users, especially female wheelchair users, in a room before, and I met so many of these women and these girls, the kids especially, have a special place in my heart. But I kept meeting people and hearing their stories and feeling so inspired and empowered by them because everybody is kind of like-minded and the fact that we want to shift these perspectives of what disability looks like in society and everybody’s doing it in a different way, whether it’s through writing a book or starting a podcast or acting or dancing.

And there’s so many other things that people are doing, and I just felt so inspired by it. And then to me personally Rollettes has shaped me. That I’m much more of a confident person now. I was a little shy when I joined the team, especially in speaking, but now I’m able to articulate and I can be confident and I can roll into a room and be the only wheelchair user and not feel small.

And I think that is a sign of some tremendous growth that I’ve had thanks to the Rollettes.

Alycia Anderson: I met your mom at the Rollettes last year.

Joci Scott: You did!?!

Alycia Anderson: And, we started talking and she was telling me about the impact of the Rollettes on your life and the confidence that it’s giving you and just the growth and, you know, Chelsie Hill’s been on our show and she really is making a massive impact for women empowerment with disabilities specifically, and it’s really, really good work.

And I agree with you that experience is… it’s really beautiful to go into a room that there’s a couple hundred and few hundred women with disabilities, all in wheelchairs, and we can be like… we disappear, like my favorite thing is disappearing into the crowd and being one of many. Instead of being the only one of many.

It’s very… very empowering and I love that it’s had the effect on your life that it has. Props to Chelsie and just the whole team. You all are doing really, really good work.

This is a perfect time to take a quick break. You are listening to Pushing Forward with Alycia and we will be right back.


Alycia Anderson: Welcome back to Pushing Forward with Alycia Anderson, a disability podcast. I know this amazing person who is our guest today, Joci Scott.

You’ve been involved in various films specifically one titled “Smash or Pass”, which is so good!

Joci Scott: [laughter]

Alycia Anderson: My husband and I were cracking up. We watched it over and over and over last night. I love it.

But your commitment to film and disability representation is obvious. The Disability Film Challenge is where disabled actors, producers, directors, creators, storytellers, showcase and their collaborations and film projects.

It’s amazing.

What drives this advocacy for you to have greater inclusion and diversity within that industry?

Joci Scott: Oh, that’s such a good question.

I think two things kind of drive me to advocate for this representation, because I definitely could just like try to go the actor route and then not advocate.

But I think what drives me to advocate is, one, I want people who are newly injured or maybe have a new diagnosis to be able to look back on things that they’ve watched or be watching something new and see oh there’s a wheelchair user doing normal things.

There’s a wheelchair user playing, a lawyer, playing you know… what?

Remember, it doesn’t have to be just the disability trope, and I think that is so important.

And then also, I work with a little girl named Cesily Taylor. We have a really special relationship and I see the way that she looks at me and the rest of the Rollettes, and she’s so confident. And she says, I’m gonna be a Rollette when I grow up, I’m gonna be an actress when I grow up.

And it’s because of this movement, right. This movement of disability representation in things that she’s watching. And the animated shows, even they…, they’re having actual wheelchair users voices. Characters with disabilities, with wheelchairs and like this whole movement of authentic casting is going to change the lives of the next generation because they’re going to see themselves represented and accomplish even greater things because of what they’ve seen.

So, I think those two things are really what drives me to advocate.

Alycia Anderson: We’ve been in this state in our society where we’re not showing authentic representation like forever. I remember growing up and there was very few people for me to follow like you. So, I had to kind of figure it out on my own.

And if you see somebody doing something you have, you have the confidence to try to do it.

It shifts our societal perspectives. It’s super… super powerful.

What’s the impact? Are you seeing it? Are you seeing shifts in the industry?

Joci Scott: Yeah. I mean, it’s a little difficult with the strike and everything happening like the strikes definitely slowed a lot of things down, but I’m getting auditions in. You know series regular roles. I’m getting callbacks. These are all results of people seeing “Smash or Pass” which I did the Disability Film Challenge last year because I wanted to and I thought it would be fun and I did not expect the film to take off the way that it did.

You know, we got nominated for four awards, Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Editor.

We ended up winning Best Editor. So that was really cool.

And then the film went to Slam Dance Film Festival, which is in conjunction with Sundance. So we got to like, do the Sundance thing.

So, I never expected that. And then I’ve been getting auditions and just the like, just the other day, I got an audition for a role that is not written as a wheelchair user. So I think this Disability Film Challenge as a whole and people within it are really making waves and making changes.

People are hopping on to this movement that Nic Novicki, the founder, has created. And it’s really cool to be a part of. People are getting representation, people are getting cast and guest stars and series regulars and feature films.

So it’s… it’s so awesome to be a part of, and I really think this is going to make waves for sure.

Alycia Anderson: And what’s really cool about it… Because it’s disabled, people taking the narrative into their own hands and leading the way and “Smash or Pass” is so good because it’s about dating and I’m older than you, so I never got to do like app dating, but I’m very curious about it from a distance.

Please share with our listeners really quick how to find that film and go enjoy it.

Joci Scott: So, the Disability Film Challenge YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages all have “Smash or Pass.” It might be easier to go on YouTube and search “Easter Seals Smash or Pass”, but it’s available to watch.

It’s only 5 minutes, so if you got an extra 5 minutes in your day, just go watch it.

It’s a good laugh. It’s cringy, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s funny and has a sweet ending. So…

Alycia Anderson: So, you’re gearing up for another film challenge.

Joci Scott: Yep. We just…, I just completed this year’s film challenge.

It was amazing. Honestly, I still am like riding the high.

We assembled this amazing team like incredible team of female filmmakers, which like is so incredible, I actually co-wrote the film this year.

That was one of my… I wanted to challenge myself this year and write because I used… I used to write scripts when I was like little and like film it on a little camera, but I was… I wanted to challenge myself and try to do it like for real, as an adult.

So, I did that with my friend Dominick Monville and then we found a director, Elisa Richards, through one of the Disability Film Challenge events, and she’s hard of hearing. So, I was like a female disabled director. Sign me up. I’m good.

And so, she and I kind of produced this thing together. We assembled this amazing crew. Like on the shoot days, people were lingering to talk afterwards, like they didn’t go home right away.

And so that was like the sign to… that, everybody is having so much fun, and even though it is volunteer, no-one’s allowed to get paid through the film challenge. Like we found some really special people who were moved by the cause of the film challenge, and I think that’s really special.

Our film this year is called “Body Swap.”

It’s about two roommates who, one is disabled, one is not disabled. They are not getting along. They end up switching bodies for a day, and they have to figure out how to live life as the other.

It’s very funny. Very you know, very early 2000’s, was the vibe we were going for… sort of like “Freaky Friday,” “13 going on 30.” That was what we wanted to do.

So yeah, it’ll be out on Saturday, April 13th.

Alycia Anderson: “Body Swap” and it comes out on April 13th.

And how do our listeners support you in the process?

Joci Scott: So, part of the challenge is the awareness campaign, which is basically the period where you market the films, share the films and try to get as many views, likes, comments, shares as possible.

All of those are going to be tallied up as like a vote, and then that gives you the potential to win the best awareness award.

So, make sure you watch it, you can watch it on repeat if you want, and then like, comment, share with your friends… family.

Alycia Anderson: Through the YouTube page or where… where?

Joci Scott: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. So… But I’ll also be sharing it on my platform.

And then if you have any, you know publications or podcasts or anything that you want me to come on and talk about it, that would be great also because any press counts towards it to.

Alycia Anderson: So, press and I’m assuming it would be a wonderful thing if our listeners who are enjoying this conversation and enjoying your film share it and re share it and post again and all of that.

Joci Scott: Yes.

Alycia Anderson: And, I can’t wait to see you win.

So, reflecting on your journey thus far, what message or advice would you share with our listeners that might be facing challenges getting through adversity that sometimes seems impossible?

Joci Scott: My advice would be to keep being yourself and finding what makes you unique, because that’s what’s going to help you succeed.

And then also, learn to sit when things get hard. Learn to sit with it, because in any life, in any career, you’re gonna have ups and downs, especially in the entertainment industry.

But in general, you’re gonna have ups and downs. So learn to like, sit and find light in the darkness.

Because… then when you when you reach the peak, when you reach the highs, it’ll feel that much sweeter, you know, because you’ve pushed through and you’ve got something driving you forward no matter what.

Alycia Anderson: I want to remind our listeners one more time where to go vote, how to support this film and how long the voting lasts for.

Joci Scott: So, the the voting goes from April 13th to April 21st.

So you’ve got about a week to like, comment, share and watch the films on the at Disability Film Challenge, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages.

And of course you can go to my pages at JociScott.com I’ll be sharing the heck out of it and until people are sick of me. But it will also be there.

Alycia Anderson: We’re going to be sharing the heck out of it too until people are sick of us too, so that’s good. All right. Well, we in this show every week with the pushing forward moment, something to inspire our listeners.

Joci Scott: Yes. So, when I was in the hospital, I actually did my rehab in New York or New Jersey. And there was one day they let me out of the hospital to go to New York City to see a Broadway Show. And it was Tootsie.

But one of my favorite… favorite actors at the time, Santino Fontana, was playing Tootsie.

And I actually ended up getting to meet him. So that was really cool. But one of the the big, like, Act One closer in that show was unstoppable.

And I kind of adopted that into my… my motto is just… unstoppable, it’s my kind of word.

Alycia Anderson: That’s a perfect pushing forward moment. I love it, Joci.

I’m so, so happy for you. I cannot wait to see where you end up like to the stars, sister.

Joci Scott: Thank you so much for having me, and honestly, we should talk about next year, maybe we should team up?

Alycia Anderson: I’m in.

Joci Scott: Awesome.

Alycia Anderson: This has been Pushing Forward with Alycia and that is literally how Joci and I roll.

We’ll see you next time.