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Monday, May 19, 2014


By Karen Meyer | ABC 7 Chicago, Disability Issues |  May 17, 2014

After becoming disabled 11 years ago, a Chicago actor has become successful, both in the city and Hollywood.

Jefferson Park resident, Michael Patrick Thornton was involved in theatre before he became disabled from two strokes at the age of 24.

He said he is recognized not because he is in a wheelchair.

"Probably my monstrously large eyebrows and crooked teeth and then they figure it out from there," he said.

Although Thornton has spent a great deal of time at the Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park, where he is the co-founder, artistic director and ensemble member, he has started to establish himself in Hollywood. He has a recurring role in ABC's "Private Practice".

"I play Dr. Fife, who was a very arrogant, wise-cracking, brilliant geneticist," he said.

"I've been in this new movie called "The Dilemma" by Ron Howard," he said.

He is now performing in "Thinner Than Water." 

"His name is Gary, he's 35-years-old," Thornton said about his character. "He lives in his mom's garage, he works at a comic book store, he smokes a lot of pot and he trying to get his life on track." 

"The play is about these three half siblings, so they have the same dad but different moms," he said. "And dad gets sick, which forces the siblings to kind of have to work together for the first time."

Most of the roles that Thornton auditions for are not disabled.

"They all have disabilities because I'm playing them," he said. "I mean, even Dr. Fife in Private practice wasn't written as a character originally with a wheelchair or disability."

"This role I get to act with my ensemble which is always a dream," he said. "Then I go into Lago and Othello here, and then I get to play - you talk about disabled characters - Richard III at Next Theatre."

This fall, Thornton is going to be in another movie that will be shooting in Chicago. 

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