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Hollyoaks has announced the casting of its very first autistic actress Talia Grant.
Talia, who is vocal coach Carrie Grant’s daughter, will play character Brooke Hathaway. Brooke, who is also autistic, will arrive in Hollyoaks as a school student and is fostered by the Osbornes.
The Channel 4 soap worked with The National Autistic Society to research the character and Access All Areas, a Hackney-based theatre company providing training to support the inclusion of learning disabled and autistic actors, to help with the auditioning and casting process.
Talia was chosen to play the role out of the 150 applicants who are also autistic.
Casting director Peter Hunt said “It became apparent by going through the normal methods of casting that we would have a very small pool of girls to meet for the role, for a number of reasons.
"Partly we learned that girls of 16-20 who could potentially go into acting never even realised that was an option as the very few representations on television have been male."
Hollyoaks boss Bryan Kirkwood said that he was "delighted" by Talia’s casting and said that she would "bring a new different voice" to the show.
"We are very excited about her arrival into the Osbornes where she will bring a secret from the past," he said. "Brooke is a strong, independent character who has a solid handle on what it means to be a teenage girl with autism and we have worked with Talia on developing her character."
Describing character Brooke’s autism, the executive producer said: "She experiences the world a hundred times more intensely than other people. Every light shines brighter, every smell is stronger – and every word she takes to heart that little bit more.
"Happy times like going out for ice cream with Nancy become cherished experiences for Brooke that she will never stop talking about…but a rude, snappy remark from a teacher will cut Brooke to the core."
Meanwhile Talia expressed her delight at joining the soap and said: "I am so excited to be joining Hollyoaks. I have met some of the cast and being on set was fun and everyone was super-nice and made me feel welcome.
"For a long while there has been no representation on screen of autistic women especially autistic women of colour so I am really looking forward to developing the character of Brooke and representing something that perhaps people are unaware of."
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, said that they were extremely happy that Hollyoaks are introducing an autistic character and that an autistic actor is playing the part.
She said: "1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic. Hollyoaks will help more of the public understand the challenges that autistic people face in their everyday lives. Most people know someone who is autistic, whether it’s a friend, classmate, colleague or family member.
"So it’s really encouraging to see more TV script writers representing autistic characters in their work."
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