Immerse yourself in the story of Tal Anderson, an autistic woman who didn’t let her ASD diagnosis stop her from achieving her dream of acting.
Tal Anderson made his debut as Sid on the hit Netflix show Atypical in 2019, a comedy-drama series about the life of a teenage boy with Asperger’s disease. It was a perfect role for Tal who, like Sid, has a strong work ethic and determination. Tal enjoys playing Sid, who is sassy and has a pragmatic approach to life – always saying what she thinks. Unlike Sid, Tal is careful not to offend others and has learned to control his comments.
The journey to a young girl’s dream come true
From an early age, Tal’s dream was to be an actress. Tal’s trip to Hollywood required persistence and overcoming his difficulties with social interactions. As a child, she had few friends and felt misunderstood due to her sensory issues and hyperfocus.
Tal was born in New Orleans and raised in Cape Coral, southwest Florida. When Tal was one year old, he was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and later diagnosed with autism in preschool. Tal’s parents made him attend private schools with a higher teacher-to-student ratio to help him academically. They also provided him with language and social development therapists.
âI was very happy as a child, but I had problems with verbal processing so I did not easily interact and engage with other children. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was introverted and used my imagination creatively. I read a lot and was fascinated by electronics – I learned at a very young age to use computers, audio recorders, cameras and video cameras. My family is very supportive of me and I have been fortunate to have a lot of resources, love and education at my disposal, âsaid Tal.
In elementary school, Tal spent most of his time working with teachers and therapists. Her parents and two other families opened a school because they felt she was not learning in the public school environment. Tal’s parents supported and encouraged his unique abilities.
âI was fascinated by movies from a young age and my parents encouraged my interests. As a child, I loved Disney movies, but not just stories. I knew every actor and every voice of every character as well as the host of every character. My fascination with the entertainment industry only grew from there and as my interests and abilities changed and grew, my parents were there to support me, âTal adds.
Fuel a growing passion
Tal has found solace in movies and television. She loved watching the Disney Channel and was fascinated by classic movies and silent movies. When she was a little older she became interested in horror, psychological thrillers and cult classics like Child’s play.
This early love for movies sparked Tal’s passion for acting and film. âI’ve always been a storyteller, creating ways to express myself, writing scripts and making videos to tell stories,â she recalls. âWhen I was young, however, I didn’t necessarily dream of being an actor, so my love of acting didn’t come until I was about to enter high school.
âMy parents wanted me to work more on socializing, I think, because they realized that high school meant that I would soon be an adult. My mom hired an actor trainer to come home to work on improvising everyday teenage situations that I had never experienced, and in the process, I learned how to actually DO these. things. After a few months, I felt a lot more confident and started taking more social risks.
A place of belonging
Acting gave Tal confidence on stage and helped her interact socially. Tal pursued his dream of acting by making the most of every opportunity and taking classes. âI started to learn improvisation, then I started taking other courses like performing on stage, combat on stage and character analysis. I did a few plays while I was still in high school and then worked as a background on a few independent films. That’s when I really knew I wanted to work towards a career in film and television rather than a career on stage, âsays Tal.
After high school, Tal wanted to go straight to LA to pursue an acting career, but her parents persuaded her to go to college first. She moved from Cape Coral to Orlando to attend Full Sail University, where she majored in film and focused on post-production.
After graduating from film school, Tal moved to LA. In Hollywood, Tal quickly learned that acting is a profession: âI just wanted to act and be on TV, but the reality is it’s very difficult to do and you have to do whatever it takes. I’m lucky because my mom, who’s my manager, is very good at this stuff, and she takes care of all the business. Most of the actors who come to Hollywood aren’t that lucky. I just have to worry about the studies, the training and the auditions, and all the business is taken care of by my mother and together we are a very good team.
Autism has been a blessing
For Tal, his autism has provided him with gifts for actor and film productions. âI believe my autism gives me advantages for playing. Most importantly, I tend to be hyper focused and very persistent. Once I’m given a role to work on, I keep working on it until I feel I understand the character, âshe explains. âPlus, I’m not emotionally attached to opportunities. I auditioned for many exciting roles and didn’t book them. It was fun and challenging auditions to prepare, and I enjoyed doing them, but once I audition I tend to move on to the next audition and not dwell on the fact that I did not reserve the role. If I did, I think I might get discouraged, because there is a lot of rejection in this business. Instead, I just enjoy the process and keep learning and moving forward.
Benefits of taking action for children with autism
According to Tal, acting classes can help young adults with autism improve their ability to socialize. She shares: âActing was really important to me in this area, and I think it’s a really good way for kids to improve their skills. For me, I wasn’t doing well with situations that I wasn’t familiar with, so acting out situations in life was kind of like practice and helped me prepare for it when I finally met him. Additionally, I have learned to identify “characters” in my life such as “Social Tal”, “School Tal” and “Fair Tal”. I looked at a situation like school and broke down the character of âTal Schoolâ into the skills and behaviors it needed to be successful in that role.
Transition to adulthood
The transition to adulthood has been a challenge for Tal. âI’m still moving into adulthood and independence, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with that. Things will always be tough for me, but the confidence I have gained from my acting and editing career has been the biggest help. I struggle with anxiety and still have a hard time doing new things sometimes, but I keep working on these things and try to find ways that can help me.
Acting has also enabled Tal to be an advocate for the autism community. “Atypical made me more visible. For the first time, people other than my family are interested in what I have to say. I’m grateful that I can advocate for inclusion and representation just by doing my job and when asked, I can tell people how important I think autism awareness is. I can speak for myself and for others who do not yet have a voice. I am very grateful for Atypical giving me the opportunity to represent other members of the autism community as Sid, âTal adds.
Work on the cast of Atypical was an incredible experience for Tal: âKeir Gilchrist is the best. He is very nice and is a serious and hardworking actor. It’s so great to have the chance to work with him, and I really appreciate how much he supported and encouraged me. I also enjoy his incredible performance as Sam. He puts so much work into portraying Sam authentically. In fact, everyone on the show is so talented and so nice to work with. They welcomed me and treated me like family.
Advice for young people on the spectrum
A few tips Tal shares with young adults who want a career in acting: âA career in acting is not something that happens quickly. If you want to be an actor you have to start by training and learning because by working on the technique you can decide if you really want to do it. Also, find something you enjoy doing for the job as you build your acting career. In film school, I learned and fell in love with film and video editing, and I do independent editing on independent films and web series. I love editing and acting, and it keeps me in the industry and kept busy so I don’t get discouraged when times or auditions are slow.
As Tal matures into adulthood and continues her acting career, her goals include: playing a role in a major movie, Marvel or horror movie, and being a series regular on a TV show. She also wants to use her platform to help other people with autism achieve their dreams.
The transition to adulthood was a challenge for Tal, but the hard work and love and support of his parents opened the doors to success.
This article was featured in Number 120 – Epilepsy: High risk for children with autism