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‘Parenthood’ Creator: Asperger’s Portrayal Merits Emmy

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The creator of NBC’s “Parenthood” says even he is amazed at how well the young actor cast to play Max — a boy with Asperger’s — has been able to pull off the role.

Max Burkholder plays Max Braverman on NBC's "Parenthood." (Mitchell Haaseth/NBC)

Max Burkholder plays Max Braverman on NBC's "Parenthood." (Mitchell Haaseth/NBC)

Jason Katims, the show’s creator and executive producer, says he was “filled with dread” at the prospect of casting the character of Max Braverman knowing how difficult it would be for any actor — let alone a child — to capture the nuances of autism.

“To ask a then-11-year-old boy to be able to accurately portray a disorder that is so difficult for highly educated adults to understand seemed almost impossible,” Katims writes in The Hollywood Reporter.

But Katims says that actor Max Burkholder has done just that, arguing that the young actor deserves an Emmy for the role.

“He was spot-on from the first episode,” Katims writes. “And while I’m far from objective, I would argue that 14-year-old Max Burkholder, in particular, who portrays a young man with Asperger’s syndrome (high-functioning autism), perfectly exemplifies the need for the academy to consider these actors more seriously.”

“Parenthood” is scheduled to return this fall on NBC.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Z says:

    As a disabled person, I’m very tired of non-disabled people winning awards for the “great challenge” of portaying us, since we are so “mysterious.” Honestly, they shouldn’t be playing us in the first place (just as white actors shouldn’t portray characters of color), but the fact that they are so often lauded for it is galling.

  2. Adriana says:

    Asperger’s is “difficult to understand” because people like Mr. Katims (and the organization he supports, Autism Speaks) keep portraying Autism (all the spectrum) as a tragic event, an impossible situation for a family. It he would only listen to autistic people, he would maybe help and educate the public. What he claims, the misinformation, is a result of what he wants people to see. The fact that he has an autistic son does not make him an authority in autism

  3. Jarl Jackson says:

    As a person wirh Asperger’s I am tired of TV portrayals of people on the spectrum that come off like they are finally letting people of color into the neighborhood. I’ve had watch every ‘Law & Order’ series “criminalize” my disorder, moving from extreme stereotype through until they almost got it right! As popular as AS seems to be as a condition, its no cooler to have it then it ever was. Would they so laud and honor an Aspie for their portrayal of a neurotypical?

  4. Sonja L says:

    Too bad Disability Scoop was swayed into being used as a promotional pawn to promote an emmy nomination for the actor. This article is a big commercial, does not help the community in any way and Disability Scoop has unfortunately crossed the line from journalism into advertising.

  5. Niki Liapis says:

    Max is my favourite character on Parenthood, I agree This young actor deserves an Emmy award i back him all the way he reminds me of my 8 year old son Kyri that has been diagnosed with Autism spectrum. Can’t wait for Parenthood to return on T.V.

  6. Richard says:

    idk, i was diagnosed with aspergers a few years back, and have friends who have it. idk, i dont think the show is doing any harm to the autistic community. well, except that they support autism speaks lol

  7. KATHY A. ZIGMOND says:

    i really like the show that max burkholder is in, called Parenthood.

  8. Sue says:

    How about Parenthood actually come see what it’s like to live with a kid with autism, then write your scripts. I invite the writers to see & experience what the whole family has to live with, deal with, walk on eggshells behavior we live to not set off the kid with autism. They do occasionally touch on it, but not enough in my opinion. Many times I have gotten so emotional watching a scene with Max, then, poof- magically it’s over…move on. Not accurate at all. After a tantrum, it’s like you just ran a marathon, waiting for your heart to stop pounding, wondering if you will just drop dead from the race! I dare NBC to live a week with us. Would you survive? Would you want to??????

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