“Searching” director Aneesh Chaganty’s new thriller “Run” debuted November 20 on Hulu, introducing moviegoers to breakout actress Kiera Allen. As the streaming giant advertised ahead of the film’s debut, Allen’s starring role makes “Run” the first feature film from an American studio to star a disabled leading actress in over 70 years. The search for Allen’s role of Chloe was “an intense and countrywide” endeavor, Chaganty recently told MovieMaker. Casting a disabled actress as a disabled character was a given for the director and his collaborators, writer Sev Ohanian and producer Natalie Qasabian.
“It was never a controversial topic between the three of us,” Chaganty said. “It was sort of like, ‘Yeah, we’re doing this right?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Cool.’ And then the process of actually finding this person proved to be an intense and countrywide sort of search. And we ended up finding this incredible talent in Kiera Allen.”
The “Run” creative team launched a casting search online, which led to an upsetting discovery: “Actors who claimed that they used wheelchairs in their real lives — but didn’t.” It turns out more than one actress auditioned for the role of Chloe by pretending to be disabled.
“There were a couple of young ladies we saw that submitted themselves as people with disabilities,” Ohanian said. “And we were like, wow, they’re really talented…but somebody looked them up on Instagram. There were videos of them walking on the beach from like, two hours ago.”
In an interview with IndieWire earlier this year, Chaganty said he “spent a lot of time” consulting with a disability studies professor at Brown University while crafting the story behind “Run” so that it could be as authentic to the disabled experience as possible. Once Allen was cast as the lead, Chaganty and his team went over every part of the script with her and allowed her to give as much input and advice as needed.
“Chaganty even had Allen write down her thoughts, from a character perspective, in a series of journals,” IndieWire’s Kristen Lopez reported. “After these discussions, changes were made — especially with regards to Chloe’s room, which Chaganty admitted was made purely from an able-bodied perspective and not necessarily from the mind of a teenage girl in a wheelchair.”
“Run” is now available to stream on Hulu.