The hit Netflix animated series “Team Zenko Go,” featuring the character of Ari, wheelchair user and comic book connoisseur, is back for season two. Ari is voiced by 13-year-old Hartley Bernier, who lives with intestinal failure. Hartley first got involved in acting through his volunteer work with Sick Kids hospital in Toronto, appearing in TV and radio commercials for the hospital where he has been a lifelong patient.
We spoke to Hartley about the show and this groundbreaking role. A 2019 analysis of representation in film and television found that for children’s television, “less than 1.0% of leading characters have a physical, mental, or communication disability.”
Thankfully, shows like “Team Zenko Go” are working to have more accurate portrays of disability along with authentic casting. The show follows four kids and their superhero escapades, who use their good deed expertise and quick-thinking skills to help their Harmony Harbor neighbors. Ari utilizes his 3-D printer to outfit his wheelchair and the other kids with tools and gadgets on their secret missions.
As someone with medical complexities, Hartley has been in and out of wheelchairs himself. Kirsten Sharp also serves as disability consultant for the production.
Season two of the animated show from DreamWorks Animation and Mainframe Studios is now streaming on Netflix. Here is what Hartley had to say:
The Mighty: How did you become involved in “Team Zenko Go”?
Hartley: I am a professional voice actor and my agent sent me the audition info. I auditioned for it and was so excited to be cast in the role of Ari.
The Mighty: What was the coolest part of working on this show?
Hartley: The coolest part of working on this show was working with the team at Mainframe
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