Christopher Eccleston may have starred in Doctor Who, but these days when people stop him in the street they’re more interested in grumpy grandad Maurice Scott than the Ninth Doctor.
The actor plays Maurice in The A Word, a BBC drama about a young boy named Joe who has autism. It seems to have struck a chord.
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Speaking at a press screening in London, Eccleston said, “I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had quite a long career, and [if] you have a relationship with the British public, they’ll talk to you about various things. And I’ve never had a stronger reaction than I’ve had to this.
“It’s very specific, because they will say to me, ‘Oh I really love The A Word, my son is autistic,’ or ‘My daughter’s son is autistic.’ My grandchild, my best friend – everywhere I go. Because I think that’s the impact of it, the simple impact.”
Eccleston said he is “stopped all the time” – quite often by people who were surprised to find themselves addicted to the show. “It’s just everyday people going, ‘Oh you know what mate? My best mate’s lad’s autistic and I didn’t really fancy that show, but it’s funny innit? It’s really good!'”
Now in its second series, many of the other cast of The A Word have felt the drama’s impact.
“I have a friend whose little boy is on the [autism] spectrum,” Morven Christie, who plays Joe’s mum Alison, explained. “She sent me a message a while ago. She lives in Glasgow and her and her husband and their little boy have been in London, and they’ve been on the Tube. He wears headphones or ear defenders sometimes, and she said, ‘People just smile at us now.’ The impact of that for her, that was transformative.”
Greg McHugh (Eddie Scott) also had a “very cool” encounter that left him feeling emotional.
“A guy stopped me in the street… his son was autistic and it was the only programme his son had ever sat down and watched. And i thought that was massive,” he said.
“He had his games and his music but it was the only thing that him and his son can watch [together]. And his son just loved it, but otherwise he had no interest in TV. And I thought that was just pretty special.”