Abigail Hawk, known for her roles in “Blue Bloods”, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and Distemper recently appeared in the new independent film, “Daruma.” Hawk plays Anna who is a supporting role to two authentically cast disabled leading men. Tobias (Toby) Forrest plays “Patrick”, a paraplegic, and John Lawson plays the grouchy neighbor “Robert” who is a double hand amputee. They play two unlikely friends, who set out on a cross-country road trip to reunite Patrick’s 4-year-old daughter, Camilla, with her maternal grandparents. ABILITY’s Jennifer Goga interviewed Hawk about her character and work on the film as well as her thoughts about this groundbreaking film.
Jennifer Goga: What was different about your experience filming “Daruma” compared to other films and TV shows you’ve worked on?
Abigail Hawk: “Daruma” worked at its own pace, which allowed us to accommodate not only John and Toby, but the entire cast and crew during the height of the Omicron (COVID-19) surge and on a shoestring budget! We were extraordinarily cautious for everyone’s safety. The health of the whole team was paramount, and that extreme care resulted in a lovely variety of shots. Some were filmed quickly and with abandon of formulaic camera-and scene-work; others were addressed in minute emotional and physical detail. It was a singular, exquisite experience. The Herculean “Daruma” could only have been accomplished as a true independent feature, and even then, only under the capable eyes of the Yellens (Writer, Kelli McNeil and Director, Alexander Yellen).
Hawk: I learned that the industry has been depriving audiences of two of the funniest and most heartbreaking actors I have ever worked with. I also learned that including John and Toby required minimal additional effort to accommodate their disabilities. Questions were raised; problems were solved when they arose; the team worked seamlessly, creatively, and with that gorgeous shorthand only seasoned crew members possess. Authentically casting this project was easy, enlightening, and elevating.
Goga: Tell me a little bit about the character you play in “Daruma.”
Hawk: Anna. Bold, unapologetic Anna, who somehow embodies the notion of “yes, and” while simultaneously embracing the power of “no.” She frequently uses the word “sure,” subconsciously perhaps, but it suits her. That’s who she is “sure” of herself, her needs, her desires. Some vulnerability peeks through, but settling into the mind of a woman who has the fortitude to push past her trauma and grab life and love by the horns is, in a word, empowering. And, well, honest. Love rarely arrives wrapped up all nice and tied with a pretty bow. It’s messy; it’s been kicked around, lost in the mail; it shows up late or even broken. But we seek it anyway. We seek it anyway. We seek the good and keep on rising. Fall down seven times, get up eight.
Goga: Do you have any “behind the camera” stories about the shooting of this film?
Hawk: I could gush about John and Toby ’til the cows come home! John has never met a dad joke he didn’t like. He kept everyone on set very well lit with his pure sunshine disposition. He’s genuine, kind, and a speed demon on the 405! I barely wrapped my scenes in time to make my flight back home to NYC, and he got me to LAX with time to spare and a huge grin on my face!
Tobias brought his A game to the role of “Patrick” and is a flawless and trusting scene partner. He listens reflexively and throws his whole heart into the work. He is brave and true. And, hot damn, does he have an enviable knack for remembering punch lines! I absolutely loved reconnecting with both men at our world premiere at “Dances with Films” in Hollywood in June and I look forward to watching the expansion of their careers.
Goga: What are your thoughts about authentic representation in entertainment?
Hawk: Art remains humanity’s mirror, and it is estimated that 1 in 6 of us has a disability. That is a significant number, and one that is severely underrepresented on screen and stage. I, for one, eagerly embrace exposure to the diversity of humanity–the more, the merrier! I think everyone deserves to see themselves, or at least some facet of themselves, represented on screen. I love when my boys are watching a show and notice someone is “different,” and they immediately (and unabashedly) ask my husband and I questions. We learn the answers together and, in turn, learn to process the world a bit more fully than before. We all learn differently, communicate differently, move differently and having that diversity reflected on screen is just another golden opportunity to see someone else’s truth. As it should be.
Goga: What are your feelings about how the movie included disability without making disability the focus of the plot?
Hawk: I am clearly thrilled to be part of such a revolutionary project, but, to be blunt, I think this concept is long overdue and I am honestly a bit flummoxed that we made this film in 2022 and we are considered “pioneers.”
Goga: Do you think there is room for more movies like “Daruma”?
Hawk: Movies like “Daruma” are the very reason the greatest dining room tables have leaves. There is always, always room at the table. I am so excited about what the future holds.