Tal Anderson interviewed for FORBES Women by Allison Norlian
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
In 2019, Tal Anderson made her debut as Sid on Netflix's hit show Atypical, which follows a teenager's life on the autism spectrum. It was a dream come true for the 22-year-old, whose aspirations to act stretched back to her teen years. It was also an answer to a question she’d been asking herself for a while, a question that had plagued so many who came before her: would having a disability prevent her from breaking into Hollywood?
Anderson was born and raised in Cape Coral, Florida, and she says that ever since she can remember, she felt different than her peers. As a child, she struggled in school and social situations.
"I didn't have any friends growing up, and people didn't understand me," Anderson said. “So I learned to entertain myself."
Anderson found solace in television and movies, and immersed herself in the world of pop culture. She adored Disney, taking to The Lion King, Aladdin, and Mulan, and would write scripts based on her favorite characters. Then, she and her two younger brothers would reenact scenes from her scripts and other Disney movies.
"I have always been a storyteller, but I couldn't express myself very well. So early on, I found tools to help me," she said.
At 15, Anderson officially started acting. She took improv classes at the local theater and performed in plays in her hometown, basking in the rush of being on stage and in front of the camera. Soon after, she started doing background work in independent short films. Acting became her muse; it provided her with confidence on stage and helped with her social interactions in everyday life.
Suddenly, a full-time career in acting became her goal. Anderson attended Full Sail University in Winterpark, Floria, where she majored in film and concentrated in post-production. She learned about film production in-depth and fell even more in love with the arts; specifically, she immersed herself in editing and got certified in various software used to create films. Anderson also acted while in college, in different short films and a comedy web series.
"I went to film school to learn to tell stories from the other side of the camera, as well as in front of the camera," Anderson explained. "I think it helps me with my acting."
In 2018, she graduated as valedictorian of her class, packed her bags and traveled across the country with nothing but a solid film education and a dream. Her destination: Los Angeles.
Once she arrived, she landed a post-production apprentice for a nonprofit media company in South Pasadena, where she edited promos and videos. Four months later, she set out to find an agent and become an actress.
Anderson landed her first few gigs in 2019, in FX's Better Things, an HP commercial, and a pilot presentation with Wanda Sykes. And then, her agent, Gail Williamson at KMR Talent, sent her on an audition for Atypical.
Tal Anderson originally tried out for a smaller role on Atypical but landed a more prominent role ...
"My agent sent me out for an audition for a completely different part in season three, you know, not for Sid, and I didn't get a callback. So I was like, ‘Well, that's a bummer,’" Anderson said. "But then my agent called and told me that I had booked the show, but a different character. And I was really confused but still happy."
Robia Rashid, the creator, executive producer, and showrunner of Atypical, and Mary Rohlich, an executive producer, were so impressed by Anderson's audition that they thought she needed to be more prevalent in the series. They created a more prominent role for her, with multiple scenes where she becomes friends with the show's main character.
"In that audition, which I think was like one line, it was a tiny little thing that we watched, she [Anderson] just popped off the screen," said Rohlich. "And we were like, 'Who is this? And we need to see more of her.' And so to Robia's credit, she just kept thinking about her and came up with a whole new role." Anderson plays Sid, a character she describes as "super sassy and confident."
"The whole team at Atypical are amazing. They are so supportive and inclusive, and everyone treats me like I'm part of the family, and I'm so appreciative of that," Anderson said. "But most importantly, I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to be part of something that helps to show the world that there are all kinds of people and families in the world."
Tal Anderson plays Sid on Atypical, who becomes friends with Sam, the main character, played by Keir Gilchrist
Rashid decided to create Atypical, she says, as a way to show a story that the public has seen before, but from a different perspective— in this case— from a young person with autism. She says it was essential to audition people with and without disabilities for every role.
"One of the things we've seen is the more specific you get in casting and representation, and writing, the more universal something becomes," Rashid explained. "There are a lot of amazing actors out there, and just because you have a disability doesn't mean that you aren't one— same with writers and anybody on the crew."
"And I think the more diversity that you put on screen, the better for the world, and for people who are at home watching saying, 'Wait, that's me.'"
Covid-19 pushed back production for season four of Atypical, meaning Anderson is waiting to find out if she'll have any scenes. In the meantime, during isolation and quarantine, she's been practicing lines with her acting coach, spending time with her new cat Winnifred, editing a comedy web-series, and participating in the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge.
Tal Anderson has been spending time with her new cat, Winnifred, during the pandemic.
Anderson's hope for the future is to act on another Netflix series or Marvel project. She would also love to work with Jordan Peele. Ultimately, she hopes to be a series regular or a lead in a feature film.
"I am happy to see more actors with disabilities having the opportunity to be on screen. And also that recently, more stories about characters with disabilities have been produced," Anderson said.
"I think that every person, no matter who they are, deserves to be able to turn on the TV and see characters that they can relate to, or who look like them, or who share the same struggles. My hope is that someday, when all stories are written, they will include all kinds of people who exist in the world, even if the story isn't necessarily about their differences, you know, because that is what the world really looks like."
This article is part of a series called Seen: Spotlighting Disability Representation in Hollywood. Every month, ForbesWomen will highlight a woman or girl with a disability in Hollywood with the purpose of uplifting their voices and showing the impact people with different abilities have on the industry.