A BOLTON actress currently in the ITV thriller Paranoid is campaigning to get more disabled actors working onscreen and in the theatre.

Natalie Amber was building a promising career in London as an actress and dancer six years ago when a simple fall changed her life. Today, after two and a half years in hospital and four major operations, she is confined to a wheelchair but is not letting her disability stop her ambitions.

“I suppose I always viewed disabled people much like many do – as a separate group generally unconnected to me,” she explained at the family home in Lostock.

“Now, I want to stop people pigeonholing them and instead view anyone with a disability as an individual, quite capable of doing anything – like taking on a variety of acting roles – because there are people with disabilities in all walks of life.”

Natalie, now 37 and a former Rivington and Blackrod High School pupil, is a member of Equity’s Deaf and Disabled Members Committee. She believes the industry is slow to change, although points out that actors like Cherrylee Houston in Coronation Street have done a “fantastic job in beginning to alter people’s conceptions of how a disabled actress can be.

“But, with the exception of a couple of production companies and a few individuals, there are still very few roles for people with disabilities. And what there is tends to be very stereotyped.

Natalie recently returned to acting to distract her from the daily pain she suffers, despite large amounts of medication. She had auditioned for a part in the first series of Happy Valley but the character was later changed.

The casting director, however, remembered her when casting the Paranoid role of the disabled wife of Downton actor Kevin Doyle’s Ghost Detective character.

“When I was offered the role, I was still in hospital and never managed to sit for longer than three hours because of the pressure on my spine,” she said. “I was worried I couldn’t sustain a 12-hour day but the team at Red Production Company, and Paranoid’s Executive Producer Tom Sherry in particular, were amazing with me.”

Where Natalie’s wheelchair couldn’t get her, she was carried. She had a carer with her at all times and her needs were addressed. Tom Sherry felt that working with Natalie was “a superb experience for all of us – she was so determined, committed and particularly talented.”

Caption 1: AT HOME – Natalie Amber with pet spaniel Margo Rossi

Caption 2: ROLE MODEL – Natalie Amber in ITV thriller Paranoid with actor Kevin Doyle

Caption 3: Tom Sherry