SundanceTV’s ‘The A Word’ Shines Light on Family Grappling With Autism

Leaders from New York’s community of autism service orgs gathered Tuesday night at the Museum of Arts and Design for the premiere of SundanceTV’s “The A Word,” a warm and funny drama that depicts a British family coming to grips with their 5-year-old son’s diagnosis.

“It really is a beautiful piece of television,” said Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development for SundanceTV and AMC.

The series, which bows July 13, hails from Keshet International and Fifty Fathoms. “A Word” aired earlier this year on the BBC to much acclaim. It’s based on the Israeli series “Yellow Peppers.”

“It is so universal,” said Alon Shtruzman, the Los Angeles-based CEO of Keshet International. “We are proud of this important work.”

David Remnick, New Yorker editor and board member of the non-profit New York Collaborates for Autism, moderated a post-screening discussion with “A Word” creator Peter Bowker, NYCA president Ilene Lainer and Eli Gottlieb, author of the recent novel “Best Boy,” which also deals with autism.

Bowker, a season British TV scribe whose credits include “Blackpool” (adapted by CBS as “Viva Laughlin”), said the 14 years he spent as a schoolteacher prepared him well to tell the story of 5-year-old Joe. The boy’s loving parents struggle to acknowledge that his sweet-natured behavioral quirks are signs that he is on the autism spectrum.

Being asked to adapt “Yellow Peppers” for British and American audiences “gave me permission to use all the information I’d had stored for 25 years,” Bowker said.

For the crucial role of Joe, producers auditioned more than 250 kids, boys and girls, through open casting calls. Actor Max Vento had the mix of innocence and sensitivity required for the show.

“I wanted to give the audience some sense of Joe’s experience,” Bowker said. The music-obsessed Joe lives in his head under headphones and yet “he’s acutely aware of the emotional turmoil around him.”

Among those in attendance at the screening were AMC/SundanceTV president Charlie Collier, writer Gay Talese and NBC’s Al Roker.

(Pictured: Charlie Collier, Peter Bowker, Ilene Lanier, David Remnick and Eli Gottlieb)

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Masters of the Universe: Revelation

    Kevin Smith Announces Anime 'He-Man' Series for Netflix

    Kevin Smith surprised audiences at Sunday’s annual Power-Con convention by announcing a new anime “He-Man” series for Netflix. The new series, titled “Masters of the Universe: Revelation,” will take place in the Mattel toy inspired world and will focus on some of the unresolved storylines of the classic ‘80s show. Smith will serve as showrunner [...]

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content