Peter Bowker on The A Word, how it compares to other depictions of autism on television, and more

Peter Bowker interview the a word christopher eccleston world on fire monroe blackpool

What’s interesting about The A Word is it grew out of an Israeli series, Yellow Peppers. That family dynamic, I thought was a brilliant set-up. Obviously it’s grown away from that as the series has gone on, but I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Yellow Peppers. But the other thing Yellow Peppers did was I felt it gave me permission to be a little less literal in the way I might depict autism, so there’s whole idyll that Joe has built for himself, around the headphones, and the morning walk.

And obviously it drove people f***ing mad, imagine Twitter saying, “Why’d they let that child walk down the middle of the road?” You know? But it’s kind of symbolic as much as anything. So, I think it allowed me that, it gave me permission to do that. The other thing was that, because I’d written Marvellous before this, I’d already seen that you can be playful with the form while still being true to the emotions of this. I think those two things helped.

A companion piece to yesterday’s interview with Christopher Eccleston: here’s me talking to Peter Bowker, writer of The A Word, all about how the show is changing in its third year, his creative influences, and more.

This I think is one of the best interviews I’ve ever done – a really interesting look at how Peter writes and what shapes his writing. We also spoke at length about what Peter thinks about the rest of television, which is always a really interesting thing to get into with a writer. Very pleased with how this one turned out!

(And I should also note that the above picture of Peter was taken by Amy Sussman, and I took from Getty Images.)

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Christopher Eccleston on The A Word, his career highlights, and more

christopher eccleston interview the a word maurice autism peter bowker flesh blood let him have it

There’s an element of ease, because I’ve played [Maurice] for a while, so I have a sense of what the writer wants me to do with the character. I don’t really think about challenges, I just think about the pleasures of working with Pete Bowker’s writing. Obviously, Maurice is a bit of a departure for me: a broader, more comedic role than I’m known for, and I’ve really enjoyed trying to learn and understand comedy, because it’s a huge element in playing Maurice. I don’t think I’m a naturally gifted comic, so I’ve had to work hard to understand how that works.

And I think one of the virtues of the piece, certainly for audience members who have people in their family with autism, is they’ve been grateful that it’s not been treated in a very poker-faced, sanctimonious way, that we’ve normalised it with humour and lightness. It’s just a pleasure. It’s just a pleasure to have a job again, and a character that I love playing and a character that I’ve played for so long. No challenges, just all positives.

New interview! A career highlight for me, this – it probably would not surprise long-term readers of this blog to know that I am quite fond of Christopher Eccleston as an actor, so it was very exciting to be able to talk to him about The A Word. (Quite nerve-wracking, too; I think this might be the single interview I’ve been most nervous about, across the past five years or so of doing this.)

Got another interview about The A Word coming tomorrow, this time with writer Peter Bowker (who Chris spoke about at length in our interview). That’s another great one, I’m looking forward to sharing that one with you all.

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