CSI's Robert David Hall Is Still Standing. SUCCESS Magazine

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					CSI's Robert David Hall Is Still Standing. | SUCCESS Magazine | What Achievers Read                                                                                           7/28/10 2:59 PM




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                                CSI's Robert David Hall Is Still Standing
                                After losing his legs following an auto accident, the TV coroner had to dig deep to
                                succeed.
                                            K. Shelby Skrhak

                                CSI star Robert David Hall wanted to be Neil Young, or at least a more musically gifted version
                                of himself. But a head-on collision with an 18-wheeler forced the amputation of both his legs and
                                started a chain of events that, surprisingly, led him to acting. All it took was someone saying he “can’t
                                be an actor now.”

                                He’s since become one of the most prominent actors with a disability working today, having appeared
                                in box-office hits Class Action and Starship Troopers, with television roles on West Wing,
                                Beverly Hills 90210, L.A. Law, The Practice and Life Goes On. Hall’s work as national
       Comment                  chairman of the Screen Actors Guild’s Performers with Disabilities Caucus has helped fellow actors find
                                a voice in an otherwise unsympathetic casting industry. He’s been lauded by the United Nations and
         Rate                   California state leaders for his awareness efforts. And he recently fulfilled a dream 50 years in the
       Contribute               making by releasing his debut album, Things They Don’t Teach You in School.
         » Find Out More
                                Fans of the 10-year-running CBS crime drama know Hall as Dr. Al Robbins, the Las Vegas chief
                                medical examiner who intelligently banters about blues music with his colleagues and occasionally
    Living Your                 croons while working in the morgue. It turns out there’s a story behind his voice. Hall spent his 20s
    Potential                   thrashing out ’60s surf music for several bands in California. On a whim, he took an acting class at
    Living Your Potential       UCLA that later inspired him to seek a different kind of stage.

        Take the first          “I got caught up in thinking, ‘I’ll never be Neil Young or James Taylor,’ ” Hall tells SUCCESS from his
    step on my big goal.        Los Angeles-area home, so he broadened his creative efforts. “You forget you’re the only you out there.
        Believe I can           Remember, we’re supposed to learn from other people, not quit because of them.”
    achieve my dreams.
        Make my health          His retired military father disapproved of Hall’s creative pursuits, but Hall forged on, even skipping the
    a priority.                 law school into which he’d been accepted. A man of many trades, he worked early mornings as a Los
        Not let financial       Angeles disc jockey, mid-days as an advertising copywriter, afternoons doing voiceover work for
    setbacks stop me in         commercials and evenings as a musician, while also occasionally pursuing acting roles.
    my tracks.
        Devote more             Then, on July 10, 1978, when he was 30, Hall’s life took a cataclysmic turn. Early that morning, an 18-
    time to the people          wheel truck barreled into his car, igniting the gas tank. Hall sustained burns over 65 percent of his body
    who matter to me
                                and had to have both legs amputated. “I spent eight very gloomy months recovering in the burn unit,”
    most.
                                he says.
      Submit                    After the accident, people told him he couldn’t be an actor. “But I’m half Irish and stubborn, and I just
                                didn’t like being told I couldn’t do things,” Hall says. Although he had thought about acting since his



http://www.successmagazine.com/csi-robert-david-hall-is-still-standing/PARAMS/article/1134/channel/22                                                                              Page 1 of 3
CSI's Robert David Hall Is Still Standing. | SUCCESS Magazine | What Achievers Read                                                        7/28/10 2:59 PM


                            college class, he hadn’t really made it a priority. Now, determination to disprove the naysayers fueled
                            his fire.

                            “After the accident, I realized I had more strength than I knew,” Hall says. “I was forced to face up to
                            reality, but facing such a reality helped me face any fears I had of taking risks.”

                            Breaking into Hollywood with a serious disability was a big risk prior to the passage of the Americans
                            with Disabilities Act. “The only jobs offered to me were ‘the angry cripple’ or the ‘superhuman disabled
                            guy,’ but I just kept at it,” Hall says.

                            His breakthrough role was playing a burn survivor in director Michael Apted’s Class Action, which
                            also featured Laurence Fishburn, who would, years later, join him on CSI. That role led to guest-
                            starring roles in West Wing, Brooklyn South, Touched by an Angel and Highway to
                            Heaven, and reoccurring roles on L.A. Law, Family Law, The Practice and others.

                                                                      Walking comfortably today on two prosthetic limbs with barely a
                                                                      noticeable limp, Hall was a pioneer for actors with disabilities
                                                                      and a beacon of awareness for producers and casting directors
                                                                      who hadn’t otherwise considered people with disabilities for
                                                                      various roles. He resents the stereotypical roles and the overly
                                                                      sentimental stories about how sad it is to be injured or have a
                                                                      disease. “I hate when the media shows someone in a wheelchair
                                                                      with sappy music behind,” Hall says. “It’s time to get rid of the
                                                                      labels. And I think that’s finally happening. Success can be
                                                                      measured in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t have to be limited by
                                                                      disability.”
                                                                      The Screen Actors Guild says people with disabilities represent
                                                                      the nation’s largest minority. And despite 20 percent of
                                                                      Americans ages 5-64 living with some type of disability, the
                                                                      group is represented by less than 2 percent of the characters on
                                                                      television. That’s why Hall says people with disabilities need a
                            positive voice and image.

                            “Now, understand, in Hollywood there are no guarantees,” Hall says. “All I’m trying to do is create
                            awareness so that producers and casting directors include disability in their roles. The role of a mother
                            could be played by someone in the range from a young-looking 28-year-old woman, to a maternal
                            looking brunette mother, to a beautiful woman in a wheelchair. I’m just saying, broaden your
                            expectations of who can play a role and give them a shot at it. And then cast the best person for the
                            role.”

                            Hall has played many roles in his life, but now 62, he’s reprising the role he first played—music lover
                            and musician. Growing up, Hall was taken with the twangy sound of singing cowboys Roy Rogers and
                            Gene Autry. He recently put his twang to use in his debut album, released in June.

                            In the title track, Hall, in a voice reminiscent of Willie Nelson, sings about life lessons not learned in a
                            classroom. “I’ve learned the hard way, the good way,” he says. Thoughts about hardship and disability
                            are missing from his lyrics. Instead, he sings blues songs about love found and lost, and how, on some
                            nights, he feels “like listening to Hank Williams.”

                            “Music was the first art form I ever had,” he says. “I know that being on this hugely rated TV show has
                            given me a platform, but as far as music is concerned, I think I can stand—no pun intended—on my
                            own two feet.”


                            Listen to a song from Hall's debut album at audio.success.com.



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CSI's Robert David Hall Is Still Standing. | SUCCESS Magazine | What Achievers Read                                                                                                      7/28/10 2:59 PM




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