Actress / director Sue Ann Pien cried when she first saw Max Braverman, a young protagonist on the autism spectrum in NBC’s family drama “Parenting”. The creator of the series, Jason Katims, was inspired by his own life for the 2010-15 series: His son, Sawyer, 25, has autism, which affects a person’s communication and social relationships.
Pien, 42, is also on the spectrum. “I’ve never seen myself on TV, I’ve written directly about it, with crises and everything that’s going on,” he says. “Growth was very lonely and I always felt like I was out of this world and I didn’t belong here. Seeing characters like me was important in changing the game.”
Years later, while reading Pien Katims’s “As We’ve Seen” script, he saw her crying again for the protagonist on the spectrum. The drama (now airing on Amazon) is about 20-year-old friends, roommates Jack and Harrison and Violet, who are navigating life on the autism spectrum. Violet works at Arby and wants to set online dates to find a boyfriend; Harrison struggles to make friends at his age and leave their apartment, while Jack confronts his boss.
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“I’ve been impressed and impressed because I’ve never seen roles like this that I’ve been connected and connected for years,” Pien says of her Violet heroine. “I was amazed.”
Pien’s colleagues Rick Glassman (Jack) and Albert Rutekki (Harrison) are also on the spectrum in the new eight-part series. The show is just one of three TV shows that premiered in January It reflects people on the spectrum: the lifelong debut reality series “Leave It to Geege” (Wednesday, 10 EST / PST), which documented the life of a mother in Georgia whose son has autism and was written with the script for “Safe Room” thriller. in which the mother and her teen fight home invaders (available for streaming).
Each of them tried to provide an accurate picture of people with autism. According to Katims, he has worked with a variety of neuroscientists in his writing staff, in the editing room, on the set, and in the production office. Lifetime has partnered with RespectAbility, a non-profit organization that creates opportunities for people with disabilities, and is struggling to create a real-life image for the “Safe Room” and play an actor on the spectrum. Taylor said the Leave It to Geege crew was trained in sensitivity and worked to ensure his son’s comfort.
Freeform’s “Everything Will Be Good” (canceled after two seasons in August) was praised for its portrayal of the heroes on the spectrum and the actual casting. But most of the characters in the autism spectrum are portrayed by non-autistic actors on television and in movies: Key Gilkrist in Netflix’s “Atypical” series, Dustin Hoffman in the role of Tom Cruise’s scientist brother in “Rain Man” (1988), Claire Danes scientist Temple Grandin HBO biography in the film (2010) and Maddie Ziegler in last year’s “Music”.
The Danes talked about the difficulty of portraying a man on the spectrum in the year his film premiered. “It’s very difficult to play someone who’s connected in a different way in general, and there are definite limitations that always exist,” he told The Daily Beast. “I can’t change the way my brain works.”
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Katims, who plays Max Braverman in Max Parenting, says the real casting in his new series has enriched the story in so many ways. they can have an understanding of a deeply ingrained subject. ”
Lauren Appelbaum, VP for RespectAbility, emphasizes the importance of real casting. “You can’t really teach someone to describe a disability … It’s a living trait.” Representation on television and in the media “has a lot of consequences in real life,” he says. “What we see on our screens and read in our newspapers affects how we act in real life.”
Ava Rigelhaupt, an autism consultant at RespectAbility, who was on the spectrum, noticed the distance. From autism stories with a “post-school special” feel.
The writers are “trying to incorporate more diversity / disability, autism, etc. into the characters,” he says. “You learn as much as you care. It’s not just to teach something, it’s to show the audience a different perspective once.”
Riegelhaupt gave advice about the film “Safe Room” starring Nicole Ari Parker and Nick Sanchez, who played the role of an intelligent mother-son duo of autistic Lila and Ian. Ian plays an important role in helping her mother overcome the evils of the film and is celebrated with a certain courage.
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“If I’m brave, does that mean I’m normal?” asked Ian.
“It’s unusual to be brave, Ian. It’s bigger than usual,” Lila replies. “It’s not just what you do. It’s also about defending yourself, standing up because you have the courage to fight for who you are, no matter what people say. You don’t want to be simple, Ian. Please bo ‘ lmang. normal because you are more. ”
Leave it to Geege star Taylor also kindly appreciates the differences in his son, nicknamed Pooti. The non-verbal 19-year-old Taylor is portrayed with her colorful family and friends in a family-based reality series that describes her as “crazy and insane and disorderly,” some of whom have autism. spectrum.
Taylor recalled that when Pooti was diagnosed at 18 months old, reports of autism in the media were only negative. “It was very frustrating for me,” he says. “Too early I thought, ‘I want to change the conversation,’ because I realized that living my life with an autistic child is so much better, brighter, and happier.”
He hopes “Leave It to Geege” will raise awareness and empathy.
“When we go out in public (on the street), we have a lot of looks because my son’s behavior is different: slapping hands, noise, and so on,” she says. Like other marginalized communities, we want people to be respectful, to make us happy, to say, “What am I looking at?” we want them not to stare. Because it is very difficult. I was tough and he passed me, but I still hate it. It upsets me, even for the person staring at us … because they don’t know about it. “
Similarly, “As We See It” star Albert Rutecki hopes his series will bring “a little more understanding and respect” to those on the spectrum. “Most of the time, I see people portraying autistic characters as these stupid super geniuses or one-dimensional tragedies,” he says. “I hope (the audience) understand that we are complex people with our own desires and needs.”
Rutekki’s co-star Rick Glassman applauds the series for “being real and showing a series of spectrums, and for his efforts to say, ‘Oh, look, this guy knows how many matches have fallen to the floor.’
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“You look at the whole scale of Hollywood and what we produce every year, and it’s nothing,” he says. “We need to do better. We really need to create real voices in its diversity and create platforms that support and encourage such stories.”
According to Riegelhaupt, such a limited number of projects that reflect autism and disability put some “all their eggs in one basket, hoping that this one film or TV show will make all their dreams come true and (they) represent them in Hollywood”. ” will bring. But he says that’s not possible.
“When there is more representation, people can see themselves more broadly … If a single film doesn’t live up to very high expectations, there may be more places to find representation.”
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