Actor Martin Klebba: A ‘Pirate’ and a Champion for Dwarf Rights

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Martin Klebba, left, at a press conference at ConnectiCon 2017.

How should parents talk to their kids about the dwarf actors they see in the movies? Martin Klebba, who plays Marty, a member of the Black Pearl crew, in Pirates of the Caribbean has a simple answer: don’t be a jerk.

“You know, [teach] them not to mess with people just because they have a disability or challenge,” said Klebba at a press conference at ConnectiCon 2017 in Hartford on July 9.

That’s something the actor and stunt man has tried to exemplify in his own work. In Project X, he gets stuffed into an oven, but when he comes out of that oven, he beats all his larger antagonists up. And he’s tried to deepen his characters so that when audiences see him on screen, they see the whole character and not just the character’s size.

“For the most part, I think society would like us to move away from having to always play an elf or a leprechaun or some kind of creature,” said Klebba.”My main goal in Pirates was to make the audience forget that Marty is a little guy. He’s just a pirate that happens to be short.”

Marty is his most famous role, but Klebba has had a long and varied career: he’s been on Broadway, he’s been a stuntman, and he’s appeared in films ranging from Mirror, Mirror to Jurassic World.

Off-screen, Klebba champions several causes. In 2006, Klebba teamed with Matt Roloff, of TLC’s show Little People, Big World to found the Coalition for Dwarf Advocacy (CoDA). A big part of CoDA’s mission is to get dwarf children from around the world adopted.

“If you’re born different, no matter what it is, you’re looked at as more of a burden to a family rather than an asset,” said Klebba. In some countries, he added, children who can’t work or help provide for their families are often institutionalized. CoDA assists families in the United States, particularly dwarf couples who might not be able to have their own biological children, in adopting dwarf children.

“They might look for a child who is sitting somewhere out there who needs a home,” said Klebba.

Klebba knows something about kids. He has two: a 21-year-old son and a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter. (He jokes that he knows the whole Disney channel lineup these days.)

Fans who love Klebba in Pirates of the Caribbean will be excited to hear that he’s getting his own ship in another franchise. His next film is Journey to China: The Mystery of Iron Mask. The sequel to 2014’s Viy, the film is a Russo-Chinese fantasy-adventure helmed by Jackie Chan and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Dance, and Jason Flemyng. It will be out later this year with Klebba playing the role of the Captain.