To Sia, From an Autistic Entertainment Consultant
A few people have contacted me about singer Sia’s decision not to cast an autistic actor for a nonverbal autistic character in her new movie “Music” coming out in 2021, based on my role as an autism entertainment consultant. They’ve wondered if I was asked to consult on the film, which I wasn’t.
Allegedly, Sia was looking to cast an actually autistic nonverbal girl, however, it was apparently too “stressful” for the girl, which made her decide on Maddie who is neurotypical.
Sia, my questions for you are:
1. Was any other autistic individual auditioned for the role?
2. Was there any autistic consultant behind the scenes helping Maddie make the role realistic (so far Sia mentioned Autism Speaks as a consultant)?
3. Who are the 13 autistic actors in the film, and are they playing autistic characters?
Hopefully, you will answer these questions for transparency. Other advocates such as Mickey Rowe, an autistic actor known for taking on the lead role in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” have also called on you to address these issues.
My feelings have honestly been mixed about this. Of course, there are fabulous neurotypical actors (Claire Danes, Freddie Highmore) who have played autistic characters (“Temple Grandin,” “The Good Doctor”) wonderfully, in my opinion. The problem overall lies in the lack of opportunity for autistic actors to even audition and, for people like myself, to consult behind the scenes. I’m autistic, grew up thriving in theater therapy and now as an autism entertainment consultant, I have consulted on two films (“Joyful Noise,” “Jane Wants a Boyfriend”) and one TV show (“Mrs. Fletcher”).
I hope the backlash can turn into something positive moving forward for future projects.