Inspired to Make a Change

Murray’s Mission

Nickole Kerner Bobley

Feb 12, 2019

One of the films was a reprise of “Becoming Bulletproof” in which Murray starred and underscored how this 36-year-old actor is a game changer himself—advocating for the disabled to be mainstreamed in the arts.

Ajani “A.J.” Murray returned for his 3rd year as Spokesperson for the Inspire Film Festival (IFF) in The Woodlands. At IFF his duties included interviewing filmmakers, actors, and documentary film subjects during this 5-day cinematic experience dedicated to celebrating the human spirit. 

The 2019 IFF film line-up boasted 25 feature length and short films centered around the theme of “Game Changers”—people who change the rules of the game around them and inspire others. One of the films was a reprise of “Becoming Bulletproof” (the film debuted at IFF in the 2017 inaugural fest) in which Murray starred and underscored how this 36-year-old actor is a game changer himself—advocating for the disabled to be mainstreamed in the arts.

Murray is a member of Zeno Mountain Farm, a California-based nonprofit organization that produces films and plays with actors who have varying disabilities. In “Becoming Bulletproof,” Murray portrayed the small Western town’s mayor.

Today, Murray is focused on raising the percentage for disabled talent in Hollywood across all job types (actors, writers, producers, directors, costume designers, etc.). He recently created a hashtag on twitter, #7percentchallenge, and is asking the entertainment industry to commit to hiring and supporting the cause.

“The disabled account for 20% of U.S. population, but fewer than 2% of television characters are disabled, 95% of the top television shows with characters with disabilities are played by non-disabled performers,” explains Murray. “I want to change those stats and get more people working.” 

Murray currently lives in Philadelphia and commutes to Los Angeles for various acting jobs. Most recently, he appeared on ABC’s “Speechless” starring Minnie Driver. His television debut role was a wild gig on Comedy Central’s “Drunk History” where he played an activist protesting the inequality of disabled rights. His film work includes “Bardo Blues”, “Take a Look at This Heart” and “The Homecoming” (currently in post-production). When not advocating or acting, he story consults for Hollywood including a post on the film “Dealt” (also screening this year at IFF) and “My Hilarious Life” due to release in 2020. 

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 8 months old, Murray has been in a wheelchair his entire life. As a young child, Murray enjoyed watching television shows. In fact, television, film and theater were the cornerstones of his family life; all of his family members are creative and love storytelling. 

“Other families had sports to center upon, but we loved entertainment. We have watched, debated and discussed television series, films and plays together for as long as I can remember,” laughs Murray. “You don’t want to play a game of trivia against my family about film and television. Trust me.” 

As a teenager, Murray first saw a disabled actor on the television series, “The Facts of Life” which made him believe becoming an actor was possible. In high school, Murray braved the stage and became an official thespian under the incredible leadership of Dr. Richard McMichen, “Doc,” the high school drama teacher.

“Doc always said we were not going to put on a high school level show. He had higher standards and I still utilize his teaching and tools to this day,” says Murray.

Like his mother Cynthia, Murray grew up to love film festivals and began working in the field upon adulthood. He has worked his way up the ranks and has selected films forThe Martha’s Film Festival (2015), was a Juror and Presenter for the Miami Film Festival (2017 & 2018), Juror for Heartland Film Festival (2017 & 2018) and is currently serving as aJuror and Panelist for the Savannah Film Festival. 

After IFF, Murray returned to Philadelphia and to resume work on a television pilot he is writing titled, “Able”, which tells the story of a group of disabled friends sharing their experiences with their careers, relationships and the everyday highs and lows of pursuing their own happiness. Murray has also partnered with his mother on “I Push U Talk”—a series of inspirational public speeches they give together as a team to companies and non-profits across the country. 

“A.J. Murray is an incredible actor who happens to be disabled. We were so honored to have him as our spokesperson,” smiles Jane Minarovic, creator and director of IFF.