Hollyoaks has announced that actress Talia Grant – who identifies as having high-functioning autism – is joining the Channel 4 soap.
Grant, who is the daughter of vocal coaches and former Fame Academy mentors David and Carrie Grant, will be playing the role of Brooke Hathaway, a teenager who herself has autism and is to be fostered by the Osborne family.
Grant, who is one of the first actresses with autism to land a mainstream role on British television, 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.”
Executive producer Bryan Kirkwood added: “We are delighted that the search for Brooke uncovered brilliant new talent Talia, whose auditions were joyful.
“She will bring a new different voice into the show and we are very excited about her arrival into the Osbornes where she will bring a secret from the past.
“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.
“The best way to describe Brooke’s autism is to say that 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.”
Hollyoaks has been working with the National Autistic Society and Access All Areas (a Hackney-based theatre company that provides training and consultancy to support the inclusion of learning disabled and autistic actors in the arts and media) to help with the auditioning and casting process.
Operations manager Max Mays said: “We’ve loved working with Hollyoaks, right from the beginning of the process. We’ve worked with lots of production companies now and it’s great to see just how committed they are to getting it right.”
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society, commented: “We’re absolutely delighted that Hollyoaks is introducing an autistic character into the show and that an autistic actor is playing the part.
“One 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.”
You can watch a 60-second rundown of all this week’s drama on Hollyoaks below