‘As We See It’: Finding a Wealth of Neurodiverse Talent

·4 min read

Curated by the IndieWire Crafts team, Craft Considerations is a platform for filmmakers to talk about recent work we believe is worthy of awards consideration. In partnership with Amazon Prime Video, for this edition we look at how “As We See It” casting director Cami Patton found untapped talent pools of neurodiverse actors to breathe life into the show’s main cast.

A cast-contingent series — a TV pilot that will only be ordered to series if the lead casting is approved —  requires that the show’s casting director not only find the right people to fill roles, but find people who inspire a sense that the show, as a whole, is going to work. On “As We See It”, Jason Katims’ observational drama about a group of young adults on the autism spectrum living together, this meant casting neurodiverse actors who could inspire that series-wide confidence. Casting director Cami Patton was prepared to utilize every second of an extended search process in order to find actors who could make the series’ leads sing (as well as dance, solve Rubik’s cubes in record time, and go on awkward dates). “The clock is ticking against you. And if you really need time to actually do a little research, to find someone for a specific role, you don’t always have a lot of it,” Patton told IndieWire.

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But, as it turned out, time wasn’t an issue on “As We See It.” Patton, whose past TV work includes “Justified,” “Pushing Daisies,” and Katims’ adaptations of “About A Boy” and “Parenthood”, found a deep talent pool by following up on her and Katims’ own personal connections to the series’ subject material: both have neurodiverse children, and Patton had a connection to Born To Act Players — a theater company that specialize in helping actors who are on the spectrum hone their craft — through her son, who’d taken classes with a junior spin-off of the company. “I thought, okay, there are going to be classes like this all over the place,” Patton said. “I just have to find them and get the word out. We just got on the internet and found as many theater companies as we could.”

This worked better than Patton could’ve ever imagined. “Every place would turn us onto other places. It was just so uplifting as a process that people were so willing to be helpful and so excited to be a part of it,” Patton said. “Ordinarily I’m dealing with agents at different agencies. The last thing they’re going to do is say, ‘You should call this agency and see about [this person,]’ you know what I mean? That’s just not how it works. But it’s just such a supportive group of people and they’re all out for the same thing, which is to help this community.” From this community-wide push, Patton was able to construct a cast which could portray all the nuances in Katims’ writing about life on the spectrum, as you will see in the video below:

The larger lift for Patton involved finding neurotypical actors who could bring the same loving community spirit to their performance which animates every creative choice in “As We See It.” Patton reflected that the main flaw in a lot of auditions came from actors emphasizing the frustration, exhaustion, and weight of providing support for a loved one on the spectrum. Chris Pang and Sosie Bacon — who round out the main cast as Violet’s brother, Van, and the group’s aide, Mandy — approached their characters instead from a place of love and then added the pressures of life onto that. Patton said that subtle shift of intention is hard to describe or coach an actor to pull off, but changes everything.

The casting process’ success was propelled by Patton and her team reaching out to people who were excited to see the show’s story reflect their own. “As We See It” was able to harness this enthusiasm. “I think people think it must take so much extra time or cost some extra money. There were a few accommodations along the way that needed to be made, very few, nothing onerous, but everyone was so willing to do it. If someone needed a support animal with them, by all means, we’ll figure that out,” Patton said.

“One of the theater companies that I worked with is called Inclusion Films. They literally brought those young people to my office for a day of auditions from Bakersfield. They helped transport one of their actresses down to be able to be an extra. Everybody just rallied,” Patton said. “It was like no other project. I’ve worked on a lot of projects in my life and it was like no other project I’ve ever been a part of.” — Sarah Shachat

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