Dive into the story of Tal Anderson—an autistic woman who did not let her ASD diagnosis stop her from making her dream of acting a reality.
Tal Anderson made her debut as Sid on Netflix’s hit show Atypical in 2019, a comedy-drama series about a teenager’s life with asperger’s. This was a perfect role for Tal who, like Sid, has a strong work ethic and determination. Tal enjoys portraying Sid, who is sassy and has a no-nonsense approach to life—always speaking her mind. Unlike Sid, though, Tal is careful not to offend others and has learned to control her 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 journey to Hollywood required perseverance and overcoming her 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 a year old, she was diagnosed with a developmental disability and later diagnosed with autism in preschool. Tal’s parents had her attend private schools with a higher teacher-to-student ratio to help her academically. They also provided her with therapists for language and social development.
“I was very happy as a child, but I had verbal processing issues and therefore did not interact and engage with other kids easily. I did not have a lot of friends. I was introverted and used my imagination creatively. I read a lot and was fascinated with electronics—learning to use computers, audio recorders, cameras, and video cameras at a very young age. My family is very supportive and I was fortunate to have a lot of resources, love, and education available to me,” says Tal.
In elementary school, Tal spent most of her time working with teachers and therapists. Her parents and two other families started a school because they felt she wasn’t learning in the public school environment. Tal’s parents supported and fostered her unique abilities.
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“I was fascinated with movies from a young age, and my parents encouraged my interests. As a young child, I loved Disney films but not just the stories. I knew every actor and singing voice of every character as well as who the animator was for each character. My fascination with the entertainment industry just grew from there and as my interests and abilities changed and grew—my parents were there to support me,” Tal adds.
Fueling a growing passion
Tal found solace in movies and television. She loved to watch the Disney Channel and she was fascinated with classic films 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 films sparked Tal’s passion for acting and filmmaking. “I have always been a storyteller, creating ways to express myself, writing scripts, and making videos to tell stories,” she recalls. “When I was young, though, I didn’t necessarily dream about being an actor, so my love of acting didn’t come until I was about to enter high school.
“My parents wanted me to work on socialization more, I think, because they realized that high school meant that I would be an adult soon. My mom hired an acting coach to come to the house to work on improvising everyday teen situations I had never experienced, and in the process, I learned how to actually DO those things. After a few months, I felt a lot more confident and started to take more social risks.”
A place of belonging
Acting provided Tal with confidence on the stage and helped her to interact socially. Tal pursued her dream of acting by making the most of every opportunity and taking classes. “I started learning improvisational acting and then started taking other classes like stage acting, stage combat, and character analysis. I did a few plays while I was still in high school, and then I worked as background on a couple of independent films. This is when I really knew that I wanted to work towards a film and TV career versus a stage career,” Tal explains.
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 concentrated in post-production.
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After graduating from film school, Tal moved to LA. In Hollywood, Tal quickly learned that acting is a business: “I just wanted to act and be on television, but the reality is that it is very hard to do, and you have to do all of the right things. I am lucky because my mom, who is my manager, is very good at these kinds of things, and she takes care of all of the business stuff. Most actors who come to Hollywood aren’t so lucky. I just have to worry about studying and training and auditioning, and all of the business things are taken care of by my mom and together we make a really good team.”
Autism has been a blessing
For Tal, her autism has provided her with gifts for acting and film productions. “I believe my autism gives me some advantages in acting. The biggest one is that I tend to be hyper-focused and very persistent. Once I am given a role to work on, I continue to work on it until I feel I understand the character,” she explains. “Also, I am not emotionally attached to opportunities. I have auditioned for many exciting roles and have not booked them. They were fun and challenging auditions to prepare for, and I enjoyed doing them, but once I audition I tend to move on to the next audition and do not dwell on the fact that I didn’t book 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 acting for children with autism
According to Tal, acting classes can empower young adults with autism to improve their ability to socialize. She shares: “Acting was really important for me in this area, and I think it is such a good way for kids to improve their skills. For me, I did not do well with situations I was unfamiliar with, so acting out situations in life was kind of like practice and helped me prepare for it when I eventually came across it. Also, I learned to identify ‘characters’ in my life like ‘social Tal’, ‘school Tal’, and ‘just Tal’. I looked at a situation like school and broke down the character of ‘school Tal’ into skills and behaviors that she needed to be successful in that role.”
Transitioning into adulthood
Transitioning into adulthood has been a challenge to Tal. “I am still transitioning into adulthood and independence, and I have no idea if I will ever be comfortable with it. Things will always be challenging for me, but the confidence I have built with my careers in acting and editing has been the biggest help. I struggle with anxiety and still have difficulty at times with doing new things, but I continue to work on these things and try to find ways that can help me.”
An advocate for her community
Acting has also enabled Tal to be an advocate in the autism community. “Atypical has made me more visible. For the first time, people other than my family are interested in what I have to say. I am grateful to be able to advocate for inclusion and representation just by doing my job and when I am asked, I am able to tell people how important I think autism awareness is. I can speak for myself and for others who don’t yet have a voice. I’m very grateful for Atypical giving me the opportunity to represent others in the autism community as Sid,” Tal adds.
Working on the cast of Atypical has been an amazing experience for Tal: “Keir Gilchrist is the best. He is very kind and is a serious, hard-working actor. It’s so great having the chance to work with him, and I really appreciate how supportive and encouraging he has been to me. I also appreciate his amazing performance as Sam. He puts so much work into authentically portraying Sam. Actually, everyone on the show is so talented and so great to work with. They welcomed me and treated me like family.”
Advice for young people on the spectrum
Some advice Tal shares with young adults who desire a career in acting: “A career in acting is not something that happens quickly. If you desire to be an actor, you need to start first by training and learning because by working on technique you will be able to decide if you really want to do it. Also, find something you enjoy doing for work while you are developing your acting career. In film school, I learned and fell in love with film and video editing, and I do freelance editing on independent films and web series. I love editing as well as acting, and this keeps me in the industry and busy so that I don’t get discouraged when times or auditions are slow.”
As Tal transitions into adulthood and pursues her acting career, her goals include: playing a role in a major motion picture, a Marvel or horror film, and being a series regular on a television show. She also desires to use her platform to help others with autism achieve their dreams.
Transitioning into adulthood has been a challenge for Tal, but hard work and her parents’ love and support have opened doors for success.
This article was featured in Issue 120 – Epilepsy : High Risk for ASD Kid