The reviews are pouring in for As We See It, an Amazon Original series about three twenty-something roommates on the autism spectrum that launched this year. If you haven’t seen it yet, be prepared to binge all eight episodes of Season 1.
What makes the show so watchable is the depth of authentic emotion and realism displayed throughout the storyline. And what makes those emotions so realistic is director Jason Katims’ decision to hire actors who are on the spectrum to play the main characters.
The character of 26-year-old Violet is played with a sublime, raw emotion by actress Sue Ann Pein. She says it was her years of hiding her autism that led her to a career as an actor.
"I was taught from a very young age to act my way through life,” Pein said in an interview with Naledi Ushe. “I had a really strong, uncanny ability to pick up languages and different accents and I would just mimic.
“I would watch how people walk and it was like character study," Pien recalls. "And then I was like, I love this, I'm doing it anyway, why not do it professionally?"
Rick Glassman and Albert Rutecki, who play her roommates Jack and Harrison respectively, are also on the spectrum. While their characters are often at odds with each other, the taut storyline does a remarkable job of uncovering their true friendship and empathy toward one another.
It’s refreshing, and highly illuminating, to see autistic characters portrayed by actors on the spectrum. The show manages to show in stark relief how differently autism presents depending on the individual, while still developing characters that are easy to love and identify with.
“There’s a great quote that I love that says, ‘If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,’” Glassman said in an interview with Robert Ito in the New York Times. “Everybody has their own deficiencies and strengths, and this show does a really honest job capturing that.”
Reviews for the most part have been glowing, with Rotten Tomatoes logging in with 4.7 stars out of 5. Not everyone is a fan, of course; one adult viewer who is on the spectrum called the show “horrible” and “insulting.”
For many others, As We See It is a welcome and refreshingly honest look at life on the spectrum, as this Rotten Tomatoes review noted:
“As a mother and guardian, this show was the most realistic portrayal I’ve ever seen in a series. I read a few negative reviews from those on the spectrum, and I do understand their point, but through my lens, as the mom, this couldn’t have been more accurate. Thank you to the authors, cast and crew. I laughed and cried as I saw so many of our very own life moments acted out on screen.”
For us at Partners4Housing, the show holds particular significance in its portrayal of Shared Living, with roommates, their caregiver, and their families. It spotlights the common thread we see when working with families, their hopes and dreams, their fears, work, family issues, and everyday hurts and victories. The storyline is rife with moments of boundaries being crossed and redefined, caregiver turnover, the challenges of personal growth in a group setting, and the way everyday life situations can derail the best intentions.
As We See It offers a raw peek inside a neuro-diverse family unit, with all the joy, chaos, love, and challenges that come along for the ride. As Violet’s would-be boyfriend Douglas says in the last episode of the season, “What’s so great about normal?”
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop us a note and let us know what you think.