An unfinished career resumes on new terms.
Actors may say, "Break a leg" for luck, but for Joe Hogan, director of standards and practices for Walt Disney Television, that sentiment proved prophetic.
Hogan started in Hollywood as a production assistant on a game show, Trump Card, which lasted for one season. He moved on to ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos, where he solicited videographers for show material.
But he secretly wanted to be an actor, so he began taking acting classes at night and auditioning for local theater. Meanwhile, he became a script analyst, for CBS and Fox as an independent reader while pursuing acting jobs.
He nabbed some roles on Fox shows, and one day, got a small part on Suddenly Susan. "I broke my leg the morning of the shoot day and didn't want to give up the job," Hogan says, "so I walked on it all evening doing the show — and fractured it even worse. I have a genetic muscular dystrophy condition, and breaking the leg caused further problems."
Needing better health benefits, Hogan gave up acting and took a job at CBS as a development manager for movies and miniseries. He was laid off when the network stopped making movies, but CBS rehired him in 2007 to work in standards and practices. Hogan eventually moved to Disney, where he manages standards and practices at the Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior.
In February 2018, owing to ongoing health issues, Hogan opted to have his left leg amputated below the knee. "By August," he says, "I was walking with a prosthetic leg and moving on with my life."
One day, Hogan was watching a war movie with a scene that included several amputees and thought, "I could do that." So he contacted a commercial casting director, who connected Hogan with an agent who specializes in representing actors with disabilities.
His supervisor at Disney gave Hogan permission to explore acting opportunities, as long as auditions and gigs didn't interfere with his job. Now, Hogan has auditions every few weeks; on the Fox sitcom Rel, he got a guest spot as a recent amputee in a hospital.
These days, Hogan says he approaches auditions as pure fun and a chance to do great work, rather than as a challenge to prove self-worth.
"Life is hard no matter what one does for a living," he says. "Going through these trials with my leg helped me see I can do more than I thought I working could. It's important to find joy in what you do. I'm blessed to work with some amazing people, and this career has given me the means to have a great life."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2019