Comedy drama to star autistic lead actor

Tuesday 7th July 2020, 2:56pm by Jay Richardson

  • Dinosaur is being developed by the production company that made Fleabag
  • The show will focus on a young woman who has yet to be diagnosed as autistic
  • Written by playwright Matilda Curtis, the format is being developed for the BBC
Matilda Curtis

The makers of Fleabag are piloting a comedy drama for the BBC with an autistic lead actor, British Comedy Guide can reveal.

Dinosaur, written by playwright Matilda Curtis (pictured), is being developed for BBC Three by Two Brothers Pictures, which produced Back To Life and both series of Phoebe Waller-Bridge's internationally acclaimed sitcom for the channel. Filming of the pilot is scheduled to take place next year.

Hundreds of applicants answered an open casting search last month for an autistic actor to play a woman "in her twenties who has yet to be diagnosed as autistic and is having to negotiate the world around her" for "a new BBC television project shooting in 2021".

However, BCG understands that the corporation is yet to officially commission the pilot.

The National Autistic Society estimates that there are approximately 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, with a male-to-female ratio of approximately 3:1.

However, various factors - including autism assessment tools tending to be based on male characteristics and women and girls being better at masking or camouflaging their difficulties - may cause significant under-diagnosis of women.

A graduate of the Soho Theatre's Young Writers Lab, Curtis's 2018 Edinburgh Fringe play Somebody was described as "skilfully structured and wittily observed" by The Scotsman.

Her cousin, Ethan Floquet, is autistic and was the subject of the 2018 documentary Ethan At 21, shot over 12 years.

Floquet's mother, Cammie McGovern, is also the author of several novels for children and adults featuring characters with autism and other disabilities.

In December, the BBC pledged to provide a more "authentic and distinctive" representation of disabled people on screen, as well as committing to increasing the number of disabled people in its workforce to 12% by 2022.

The initiative was announced with a clutch of commissions, including a second series of stand-up Tim Renkow's sitcom Jerk; Vicar Of Dibley writer Paul Mayhew-Archer's romantic comedy But When We Dance, based on his experience of attending dance classes to manage the effects of his Parkinson's disease; and The Last Leg host Alex Brooker's documentary Disability And Me, which aired on BBC Two last week.

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