Popular British drama to air on American TV
In 'The A Word,' a family copes with an autistic son, and so much more. Here's a sneak peek of the series being lauded by viewers and critics alike.
In the title of “The A Word,” a new drama series premiering on the Sundance Channel July 13, "A" stands for autism. The show is about a family with a 5-year-old son on that behavioral spectrum, and how it impacts their lives and relationships.
A hit in Britain when it aired in March, the six-part series has its origins in Israel. It’s based on the Keshet International series “Yellow Peppers,” which was created and written by Jerusalem-born Keren Margalit. She serves as executive producer on “The A Word,” and says the story lines and characters in it are “largely the same” as in the original version.
She was admittedly worried about letting go of ”Yellow Peppers,” but after meetings with the U.K. team, she was confident that the three main ideas of the show would be preserved: “The battle to be normal can drive you insane; sad things can happen to funny people; and it’s almost impossible to maintain good communication between two people, autistic or not," she told From The Grapevine.
It was important to her because she is the mother of a 15-year-old boy with autism, which inspired her to write “Yellow Peppers.” The title came from the fact that the family in it grew yellow peppers for a living. “It seems as though yellow peppers would have nothing to do with autism, but in a weird way that’s the point,” says Margalit. “It’s something that is close to the plot, but not the core of it. That’s the feeling I wanted to convey.”
After the series aired in Israel, where it garnered awards and nominations, “yellow pepper” became an idiom for a boy on the autism spectrum. Margalit admits she's gratified that the show made such an impression. “I really tried to fight the noise in my head about how it would be received. I had a strong feeling it was good because I put a lot of my heart and truth into it. When someone is really honest and offers a window that others can look into and see all the humiliating little things that are built into being a human being, you hope it will work and the audience will identify with it,” she says.
She hopes American audiences will respond similarly to the show's themes of communication, “and how we almost always fail in seeing the other person, their work, their lives. ... We don’t take responsibility to really see the other person for who they are,” says Margalit. “On the other hand, some people focus their attention outwards more than they look to analyze themselves. I hope the show encourages people to think about these matters.”
Margalit just returned from the set of the Greek version of “Yellow Peppers” in Crete, and is currently writing a new TV series that will begin filming in Israel in December. As if that wasn't enough, her Israeli TV movie “All I’ve Got” is being adapted for American viewers for a movie to be produced by J.J. Abrams and starring Daisy Ridley of "Star Wars" fame.
When asked why Israel has become a prime source of international productions, she points to the small budgets, which are minuscule by Hollywood standards. “When you have no money, you can't hide behind tricks,” she says. “The only trick available is a strong script.”
The BBC has already green-lit a second season of “The A Word."
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