×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Atypical’ Star Keir Gilchrist on How He Prepared to Play an Autistic Teenager

Born in London and raised in Canada, Keir Gilchrist, who played son Marshall to Toni Collette’s Tara on “United States of Tara,” doesn’t hail from an acting family. “Nobody in my family has ever done this,” he allows. He’s certainly proved he belongs: He’s now starring as lead character Sam Gardner, an autistic high schooler, in Season 2 of critically acclaimed Netflix comedy “Atypical.”

How did you prepare to play Sam?

My rep set me up with Robia [Rashid], the creator of the show, so I got to sit down with her for a couple of hours. It was a very lengthy audition process, and we talked a lot about the various ways in which I could play Sam. The most helpful piece of research was the book “The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband.” The book ended up being a really big contributing factor in creating Sam’s character.

In Season 2, Sam’s relationship with his sister Casey [Brigette Lundy-Paine] evolves. How did you both navigate that change?

I have to give credit to Robia. She had written such a thorough script, and Sam’s relationship with Casey really jumped off the page. It still does. She brings to that character such a sibling vibe, and we have a very natural chemistry.

Sam gets overwhelmed by certain stimuli — people talking, loud music. 

With Sam, his senses spiral all over the place, so we try to incorporate visually what is going on in his brain. We’ll show slow-motion close-ups of people’s mouths moving, fluorescent lights flickering, which is the way people on the [autism] spectrum often describe what’s happening when things become too much. In those kinds of scenes, I try to put myself in positions to which anyone can relate — getting bullied at school or getting overwhelmed with a partner. But with Sam, he becomes a little more frightened.

What are some of the changes for Sam in Season 2?

In Season 1, Sam is struggling to find love and acceptance, and at the end of that season he accomplishes that. Season 2 is more about Sam’s independence. He’s at the end of high school, and now he’s got to decide whether he’s going to go away to college and, if so, where. He’s got to decide whether he’s going to live at home or go away. He takes all the skills from the first season and is trying to forge a path. You can expect lots of misadventures. He’s on a mission to figure out what he’s going to do with his life.

Things You Didn’t Know About Keir Gilchrist

AGE: 25 BIRTHPLACE: London PASSION PROJECT: He’s a vocalist in a pair of bands (“I wouldn’t call it singing. I do screaming. It’s very cathartic”) SECRET TALENT: Spent two years learning how to farm (“I’d like to get back to that at some point”)

More TV

  • ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer Making Joan

    ‘Stan & Ollie’ Producer to Make TV Series About Joan and Jackie Collins

    The colorful lives of movie star Joan Collins and her bestselling novelist sister, Jackie, will be dramatized in a TV series. Sony-backed Fable Pictures, the British film and TV producer behind “Stan & Ollie,” will make the series, having secured the TV rights to the Collinses’ story. The series, which has the working title “Joan [...]

  • Friends From College

    'Friends From College' Canceled by Netflix

    Netflix has canceled comedy series “Friends From College” after two seasons. “Friends from College will not return for a third season,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “We’re grateful to creators Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco for creating a wise, funny and supremely relatable show. We also want to thank the hard-working crew, [...]

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BBC Takes Stake in New Company Set Up by ‘Luther,’ ‘Bodyguard’ Exec

    BBC Studios has taken a minority stake in Firebird Pictures, the new drama indie being set up by BBC execs Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Craig Holleworth. Kilgarriff’s credits include “Luther,” “Poldark,” “McMafia” and upcoming Richard Gere-starrer “MotherFatherSon.” She commissioned breakout drama hit “Bodyguard.” Holleworth will be the new company’s COO, having run business and operations for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content