Elle Potruch ’16 is a talent manager who works with disabled actors, directors, writers, and social media content creators. Her work helps to elevate representation of the disabled community in media—a community that she is part of, too.
When HBO’s latest hit series, The Last of Us, aired earlier this year, one of its scene-stealing breakout stars was Keivonn Woodard, a deaf 10-year-old actor who played the character Sam. Woodard was lauded for his talent and a performance that packed an emotional punch for the post-apocalyptic show based on a popular, best-selling video game. Behind the scenes, an Ursinus alumna worked closely with Woodard in securing the role.
“It was his first job ever, and he needed representation,” said Elle Potruch ’16, a talent manager based in Los Angeles, Calif. “It has been so incredibly special to see this young actor who I adore be put out into the world and to watch audiences fall in love with him.”
Potruch works for C Talent, a company that, according to its website, “represent[s] the world’s most sought-after deaf and disabled content creators and work[s] with them to increase disability representation, set new accessibility standards, and engage new audiences.”
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.3 billion people—16 percent of the world’s population—experience significant disability.
“We’re out there,” said Potruch, who lives with a disability. “The reason that representation is so important is because when they see a disabled character on TV, it’s fulfilling and validating, and you feel seen. There are Barbie dolls with hearing aids, Barbies who are wheelchair users. There is a dog on Paw Patrol in a wheelchair. You see that character and you say, ‘Oh, that’s me.’”
“And representation matters not only for disabled people—when Disney released a trailer for [the upcoming live-action] The Little Mermaid [in which the title character is Black], it was emotional for so many young girls who saw themselves in their favorite character,” she said.
Potruch has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which affects the connective tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels, and many other organs and tissues. She said, “The disabled community is the only minority community that you can join at any time in your life, and a lot of people don’t think about disability and access until something happens to a loved one, or something happens to them. And even though we are the largest minority in the world, we categorically and statistically have the least amount of representation in media.”
Through her professional work, Potruch hopes to change that. She started with C Talent in January 2022 and in addition to working with actors, writers, and directors in film and television, she also manages social media creators and influencers who use platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube. One of her clients, Knox Gibson, will appear in the upcoming Hunger Games prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
“It’s not only about letting disabled people tell their stories. It’s also about giving them access to the room”
“It’s not only about letting disabled people tell their stories. It’s also about giving them access to the room,” she said, explaining that she’d like to see more disabled representation in leadership positions across industries. “It’s always important to have perspective from people with diverse backgrounds and experiences—to look at the world in a different way and open up your mind.”
Potruch, who is from California, but has family in Pennsylvania, was a media and communication studies major who was also involved in the performing arts at Ursinus. She values her experience working with a small community of people on theater and dance productions, something that is reflected in her day-to-day job as a talent manager.
“We have a small team, but it gives me a chance to develop personal relationships with my clients,” she said. “A small team making big changes.”