Northern Ireland

Holywood produced series features autistic cast

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Media caption10-year-old Jake Williamson plays 'Pablo'

A County Down company is making a major TV series with a difference - its central character and cast are all on the autistic spectrum.

'Pablo' is an animated 52-part series about a five-year-old boy who creates an entire world from his imagination.

Paper Owl Films in Holywood are in the process of making it for the BBC's CBeebies channel and RTÉ.

All of the local cast are autistic and many have been involved in writing scripts for the programme too.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Grainne McGuinness is the managing director of Paper Owl Films who are producing the animated series 'Pablo'

Grainne McGuinness from Paper Owl said that their input was vital to ensure Pablo's experiences were authentic.

"Pablo sees the world in different ways because he's on the autism spectrum," she said.

"It should be the authentic voice of young people on the spectrum, and we've got lots of young people writing for the show and doing the acting.

"Every single script is based on the experience of a real person."


10-year-old Jake Williamson plays Pablo and has spent many days after school recording his lines in the Paper Owl studio.

"Pablo is non-verbal, and that means you don't really speak that much," he said.

"When he goes into his art-world I think he feels a bit more happy that he's communicating with other people."

In the imaginary world Pablo draws, he creates a number of friends, the book animals.

Image caption Rachael Dickson who plays the character 'Mouse' in the animated series

Rachael Dickson plays one of them, a character called Mouse.

"Mouse likes to get advance warnings about things, and she likes to collect things," she said.

"She's quite grown up, an honest person and very friendly."

"She's also very cute, but the right kind of cute!"


Like Rachael, Tony Finnegan has written some scripts for the series.

He also plays one of the book animals - a dinosaur called Noah - and he said that he and Noah share some traits.

"I saw a lot of myself in him," he told me.

"He's very warm and friendly, but he also lacks certain social skills."

"That doesn't mean he's dumb in any way, it just means he doesn't quite know how to respond to people."

"That was pretty much me in my childhood."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tony Finnegan plays the character 'Noah' in the series and has also written some of the scripts

Grainne McGuinness said the series will be fun for young children, but also has an important message.

"Pablo puts the traits of autism on the screen for a mainstream audience."

"The hope is that through exposure to those traits people gain understanding of what it might feel like to be on the autism spectrum."

"We have found huge levels of creativity, focus and preparation in the people we have worked with."

"It's been a very inspirational process."

'Pablo' is due to be broadcast in late 2017.

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