Reid My Mind Radio – The Gift

Picture of Jay Worthington

Jay Worthington knew he wanted to act from an early age.

Struggling to accept his blindness, fighting the bullying and discrimination; he searched for something more… The Gift!

While listening to “The Gift” is a present for the listener there’s more to this episode. I’ve been inspired to stretch my own creative chops with acting, impressions and and an original rap!

Now time to unwrap this episode and recieve The Gift! Then Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any future episodes.



Show the transcript

Wasup good people? I got a goodie!
Then again, maybe I shouldn’t go on the limb like that.

Like so many things, listening to a story or a song, reading a book or watching a movie or play…
any response to that piece of work is subjective. I may like it and you may think it sucks! And that’s ok, you can be wrong some time!

I’ll share more about this latest piece for Gatewave Radio a little later, but for now you take a listen and maybe you can
tell me what you like or dislike about it. I think I am open to that. Again, I don’t mind if you’re wrong!

Ok, now lights, camera…. it’s showtime!

[Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Intro]

“We will never work with him we will never bring him into so much as audition because he will never work with those eyes on camera.”

My name is Jay Worthington. I’m thirty three years old. I live in Chicago Illinois. I’m a professional actor and a teaching artist.

When I was like four or five years old my dad took
me to see Batman in the movie theaters. The original Tim Burton Batman. I was just trance fixed by it. After the movie when we were walking out in the parking lot at 4 or five years old I turned to him. That’s what I want to do!

That experience was more than a movie, it was his first time receiving the gift.

Not all gifts are obvious. Lots of things have to fall into place in order for that gift to be recognized

I was born completely blind. I was also born months premature.

My parents got called into this doctor’s office and apparently he pulled out a gigantic book of Braille and was like you know you should take this home and look it over. Your
child is blind.

Jay was born with a rare visual condition called Ocular Albinism.

Which causes my eyes to move; sort of an uncontrollable erratic movement that I have no conscious awareness of. It just happens. As I
got older and older my vision began to improve and around the time I was two years old I could see in shadows. My vision steadily got better and better until puberty in which it bottomed out and will remain the same for the remainder of my life. And it’ll deteriorate a little bit just like anybody’s
vision as I get older. And it already has but I am legally blind but I do have some vision.

When my parents could obviously start to tell that I was picking
up visual cues, I think they were freaking out. I think they were pretty overjoyed.

Jay’s parents had access to one specialist in ocular albinism. His summary of Jay and his abilities?

The doctor would usually just say it’s a miracle. Really there is no explanation for how he’s able to do what he does, he shouldn’t be able to. do certain things that he can do.

Another gift.

I know, growing up legally blind it’s pretty hard to imagine this being a gift, but stay with me and I’ll show you.

It’s said, You have to bear the burdens before you can receive the blessings.

First, the burdens..

it took me a really long time to come to terms
with my vision.

The problems started occurring when I got into grade school and the bullying started. A lot of bullying I encountered growing up. I was one
of those kids who eight times out of ten I’m not going to back down. I was getting in a lot of fist fights and a lot of scuffles growing up
and losing most of them because I’m a blind kid [He laughs!]. But there was just this anger in feeling like I was being persecuted for something I had no control over.

The blessing!

I took a drama class in middle school and I was in.

From the moment I was born to fourteen years old I don’t have any recollection of anybody; my parents,
a teacher or a friend, anybody ever telling me I was good at anything.

I’m not saying that is indeed the case I’m saying I really and truly don’t
remember if somebody did tell me I was good at something before that.

It was scary going up with this kid that I knew didn’t like me and made fun of me because I was this awkward kid and made fun of my eyes. I didn’t go out there with the intention of mess with him in the scene or anything, I just wanted to go up there and play and just have that freedom. Almost immediately the moment it started I just felt home. It just felt so natural and so right.

I remember getting done with the scene and that kid coming up to me that did the scene with me, and being like Man and he put his hand on my shoulder and was like, you’re really good at this like that was awesome man. There were more kids in that class than just this guy that bullied me and made my life a little difficult who are now coming up to me being like Jay like we didn’t know we didn’t know you could do this. This is crazy, you’re awesome. I just remember
feeling wow people are positively supporting me in something I’m doing. This is a remarkably new feeling!

On that stage he found home!
that’s a gift many people never really receive.
Finding that one thing or place where they truly feel comfortable and can express themselves.
If Jay were writing the script for his life play or movie at that early age,
I’m sure he would’ve chosen to make that early acting experience the point at which all of the bullying ends.

the bullying never really stopped from first grade to senior year of high school. I remember getting out of high school and be in like thank God I’m going to college. Going to be around adults. Nobody’s
ever going to disparage me or judge me for my vision ever again.

I was wrong!

Unfortunately, bullies are a part of the real world. They grow up to have jobs like college professors who told Jay he’d never get work in the business.
They even work in casting agencies.

Excluding one casting office. All of the major casting offices in the city have either told me or told my agent we will never work with him we will never
bring him into so much as audition because he will never work with those eyes on camera; there’s no way!

These people have no idea they’re practicing discrimination. None! That same person would never in a million years go to a person of color or a person with a different type of sexuality or a transgendered person and
tell them hey I’m not going to bring you in because of the color of your skin. I’m not going to bring you in because of your gender or your sexuality. The same people that would make that call against me would be outraged and offended if they even heard somebody making that call against somebody else. That’s to me what’s amazing about the disabled experience.

Going through my life and experiencing this feeling of constant discrimination on a certain level just
kept building this anger.

I can tell it got to a point where I woke up one day twenty eight twenty nine years old took a look in the mirror and it’s like
you’re a highly functioning alcoholic. With a huge dependency problem. You’re miserable, you’re angry all the time, your girlfriend can’t hardly
stand you half the time, cause You’re never sober you’re a train wreck. Just all this anger. Over trying to do this thing that that alone makes sense
of the world to me and all I seemed to feel like I hear is people telling me it’s never going to happen.

It was an acting role that would help Jay come to terms with his internal anger.
Come to terms with his vision loss.

The role forced him to act on stage completely blind.

There was a huge shift in my work at that point. Acting had always been this quasi spiritual practice to me. When I did that play, it stopped being a quasi-spiritual practice and became a full blown healing ritual. There was something about going out there every night and telling
this story. That I think just made me come to terms with something that I’d been fighting for twenty nine years. Six months later I was sober. I haven’t had a drink in three and a half years. I just actively started turning a lot of stuff around and just getting better and better every day as I continue to do to this day. But it was that play in getting sober and really asking myself Is it this industry in these people that are holding you back? Or is it you realizing that no matter what these people say they’re not the ones holding me back. It’s me because I’m taking the outrageous information that they’re giving me. Information that’s based on nothing. They don’t know anything about disability. I think it was when I got sober and started tearing down all those beliefs and filling the void where those beliefs were with good positive beliefs about myself and deepening a spiritual practice and deepening
my relationship with God, that’s when everything started to turn around.

That’s the Gift of enduring trials and tribulations and
finding strength deep within.
Along with a belief in something greater than yourself.

Once again, it was through his stage experience that led Jay to more self-discovery.
Trying to tap into a role, a director and friend recommended Jay read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
This helped Jay find lots of other writers focusing
on eastern philosophies and religions including Buddhism.
Jay says his spirituality consists of
pieces of different philosophies that help him find his way through life.

After working all types of day jobs to support himself
Jay decided to try and pair his original goal of becoming a teacher with his love of acting.
In 2012 Jay began teaching acting classes during the day.
Combining the two proved to be even more beneficial than Jay probably thought.

At this point in my life it’s become just as big and just as equal level as acting.
I believe that acting is a holistic practice. I believe that it’s healing for the audience as well as for the performer.

A huge part of my life right now is how do I incorporate teaching acting as a holistic practice into my teaching. What sort of techniques can I create to show and illustrate the healing properties of this work and how they can open somebody up.

I have zero interest as a teacher in making people better actors. I have great interest in helping people to be the best version of themselves. As the best human beings they can be. If you do that that acting stuff will take care of itself.

Acting for 20 years and 10 of those professionally,
Jay has played all types of roles including Shakespeare and premiere roles bringing with them unchartered territory offering freedom to interpret and approach the role.

But what he really l loves are those roles that scare him.
They cause him to question his abilities and reach even further.
That too is a gift.

The gift of being challenged at your craft.
Especially when that’s something that drives you.

With all of these different roles and experiences auditioning, there was one he thought he’d never see.

Then one day, out of the blue, 2 separate friends on the same day alerted Jay to an open casting call that he just couldn’t believe…

I’ve never in my life heard of an audition post where they were looking for a visually disabled person.

He contacted the casting agency, auditioned on camera via Skype.

I think it was like the day before Thanksgiving they emailed me
and said are you ready to fly out to L.A.

After all of the years of being bullied for his blindness imagine how that must have felt to be
sought out as an actor with vision loss.

On top of that Jay received the star treatment.
He was flown out to Los Angeles, put up in a nice hotel,
he even had his own driver.

The role was for a public service announcement –
an initiative of a website and campaign called Blind New World.
their objective?
Challenge us all to test our own biases and fears about blindness
with a hope of creating a new world… a blind new world.

And Jay’s role?

The handsome guy in the PSA entitled the get together.

You’re trying on a million different outfits and then they’re taking you into this room full of these producers. And the producers are just standing there talking about you like you’re not even in the room. Every time I go in with a new outfit they’d be like you know he looks too handsome he’s got to be a little nerdy. And then finally I went in, they’re like oh he looks like a nerd and I was like great thanks guys. Thanks.

Now, I’ve been called handsome before,… (thanks mom!)
But two words never heard after my name… too handsome!

the final gift, it’s unexpected, it’s not what he thought he wanted, but I suspect it’s something his heart was seeking.

My whole life up to that point I’d always felt like an outcast. It always felt like an observer sort of on the edges of things.

I just wanted to be this freelance actor who hopefully got to a Point One day where, I’m doing a show at this theater now I’m doing a show at this theater over here. Being this freelance guy going wherever he’s needed.
What ultimately happened was I was asked to join an ensemble – a group of actors who live together, work together for years and years and years. Who are a family taking care of each other and loving each other. Taking that energy and that love out on stage every night. And in my opinion it’s the finest theater in the country.

Some may see irony in the name of the ensemble.
Call it what you want, but I’m choosing to see this as something greater at work,
something more divine, destiny !

The gift Theatre Company, the company I’m a part of; this huge family. They are blood they are my biological family I would do anything for these people. I love them and cherish them I’ve never felt the level of acceptance and love that I feel from these people.

What actually happened has given me everything. I feel like. Just about the luckiest guy. You know?

Yeah! You found your tribe.

Yeah that’s the best way to put it I feel so blessed!

I’m Thomas Reid…

Being this freelance guy going wherever he’s needed.

For Gatewave Radio, audio for independent living!

[Audio bumper…]


I may have said this before, but doing this podcast is very special to me.

Writing and Editing the podcast is definitely time intensive, but I like so many things about the process. Finding a way to connect the story,
thinking about the lessons and how they relate to me personally.

Editing for Gatewave though, that’s hard especially when those you talk to give you really good stuff to work with.

This was the first time I decided to have two versions of the same story.
This version while branded Gatewave, is not the same that was submitted to my Gatewave Producer Toby.
She understandably needs a more abridged version to fit into a scheduled show…,
but there was so much I wanted to include. Even in the natural flow of the episode, there were things that I left out and decided to incorporate right here.

[TR in conversation with Jay:]
Talking about Hollywood, what’s
your take. On non-disabled people playing roles of people with disabilities.

I don’t necessarily have..
No there’s no way around it for me it infuriates me!

[TR and Jw laugh!]

I can’t come to …, I’m trying to be level with this interview and I don’t want to I don’t I don’t want to offend anybody but it really does.

Like Star Wars Rogue One.
There is a blind character in that. In that movie he is played by a martial artist to who I I’m sure has twenty twenty vision I think
his name is Donnie Yen and he’s an incredible martial artist but yeah he’s a guy with able bodied vision and he’s playing a blind character and I
am of the belief that if you spend enough time with a visually disabled actor that they’re going to be able to do martial arts. They’re going to be able to do whatever they need to do. I very much subscribe to the belief that a disabled person can do anything an able bodied person can. And in many instances I think disabled people can exceed what the able bodied can do because their level of faith their level of belief in themselves naturally has to be so much greater than the average human beings.

It really angers me.

A really good buddy of mine who is the artistic director of the theater company I’m a part of, he’s a very well-known actor in Chicago who works in a wheelchair. He’s got the same thing it’s like if you’ve got a character in a play or in a movie who’s in a wheelchair and you cast a guy who can walk and doesn’t use a wheelchair in life. There are far greater number of disabled actors
out there working than people are aware of and it’s so rare to even see a disabled character in a major film, T.V. show anything because we don’t want to show that to the world right now. We want to show perfection. We want to show a perfect reality so in the rare instance that there actually is a role written where the character is disabled. It would seem Yeah you should cast a disabled actor.

By the way, why is there always that blind guy in movies who is more than often black and runs a news stand?
He usually has some extra powerful sense of smell, which folks, that’s not true. It’s not more powerful it’s just used more.

And for the record, I can play that role! Watch…
“That will be 2.50 Luke. Yes, I knew it was you by the sound of your boots 10 blocks away, plus I smelled that Egyptian musk oil you always wear.

Marvel, get at me!

Anyway, I’m happy with the slightly abridged version of this story submitted to Gatewave
and I think it contains the main points.

Like the power of bullying.

For lots of people of my generation, bullying is a new concept. Many of us looked at that as kids will be kids without really considering the repercussions.
I was never a bully! I got into some fights but don’t recall initiating many.
I had experiences of being bullied to some extent but
even that I still view as a sort of neighborhood rites of passage.
The older guys in your neighborhood test you. When you stick up for yourself you get props. You earn the occasional head nod from them and maybe
… what up little man!

But that’s not everyone’s experience.
Over the now 19 almost 20 years of being a Dad I come to view bullying differently.
I learned of real situations and see the impact it has on people even when they are older.

As a Dad, I really felt it when Jay talked about never hearing he was good at something until 14 in his drama class.

I am pretty certain my children wouldn’t say that, I think I may have done the opposite and told them, they were good at stuff they had no business doing!
I’m just kidding!

The main thing I walk away with from this story is finding the gifts.
Jay literally found his.

I have found some of mine, but I guess I find myself searching for more.
That’s not appreciating what I have, it’s just more like feeling as though I have more to do.

One gift I definitely recognized with this last episode is the opportunity this podcast provides me with meeting cool, interesting people.

If I’m going to be honest, ever since losing my sight my access to cool conversations with new interesting people, well that’s been greatly reduced.

Some of that is due to my access – getting out here in the Poconos isn’t the easiest thing to do.
There’s no bus service near me and para transit sucks and
even then, people tend to limit their interactions…
well all of that is probably the topic for a separate podcast.

Looking at that from the same lens as which I viewed Jay’s story, things tend to fall into place.

I don’t know if I would have began podcasting or rekindled my relationship with audio production
if I hadn’t experienced vision loss.
I really don’t know what my life would have been like.
I don’t think it makes much sense to even give that too much thought.

What I do know is it was an incredible feeling when I received an email from a listener who said how much they appreciate the stories. They recommended the show to another person who I believe is adjusting to vision loss.

That’s what I want!
I want to know that people adjusting to blindness or something are digging this and possibly find something in the stories.
I want to know someone received some help…
There’s a lot of real practical help in many of these episodes. Some may be considered inspirational, but honestly I don’t go for that…
all of these stories are people from different backgrounds, countries,
genders, ethnicities, but there all people.

I tried to interview a guide dog a few months ago…
I thought I could make it work, his name was Scooby!
(Rooby Roo!)

Or maybe I was feeling a little Shaggy that day! LOL!

On the real though, I felt there was something for others ever since I began realizing this experience of blindness isn’t inherently bad. Becoming aware that it’s not the blindness, it’s not the disability it’s our society and the way disability and definitely blindness is viewed.
The barriers are put there by society.

If you’re listening to this and don’t get that, first of all thank you so much for listening. You should contact me at You should explore this idea for yourself and I think it’s going to open your eyes.
No pun! Just the way we speak in this sighted world!

Well there’s always big pun!
Can we start some sort of internet thing where when someone mentions a pun we have to play a Big Pun verse?

Since I’m talking rappers, let me bless you with an original TReid verse and I’m kickin it Acapulco.

Reid My Mind Radio, it’s about to be done
I hope you learned a bit and had some fun!
Even though it’s recorded you are listening live
Before I sign off, let me get you to subscribe
The more who do, the better chance for discovery,
rollin with RMM you get production see
it’s not just turning on the mike and talking bro
I give you writing, editing a real produced show
Apple Podcast, Google Play
Stitcher, Tune IN, nothing left to say.

Ok, don’t forget to subscribe and if I get enough, I’ll stop the corny jokes and rapping!

I’d probably would have more subscribers if…
[Scooby Doo… wasn’t for those stupid kids…]

[Audio: RmmRadio Theme Outro]

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