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New film “Ezra” stars an actor who has autism

(CBS, KYMA/KECY) - The new Hollywood film Ezra has big name stars like Robert DeNiro and Rose Byrne, and a teenage actor who has something in common with his character: He's living with autism.

Now, the film's producers share how they worked to make their set more inclusive, and how other workplaces might learn from it.

The film "Ezra" tells the story of a young boy with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the journey it begins for his entire family. Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne play his divorced parents, and the star: 15-year-old William Fitzgerald.

"If this does get nominated for an Oscar, I might be too overwhelmed to attend. I might just say, 'Hi' via Zoom meeting, but that's my plan," William shared.

Director Tony Goldwyn cast William after a nationwide search, determined to find a neurodivergent actor to bring this story to the screen.

"I wanted the autism community to see this movie and be like, 'Yep, you guys got it right,'" Goldwyn remarked.

William has been diagnosed with ASD and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It was a priority to make the set a comfortable space. His parents, David and Laura, worked closely with the crew.

"They had training for the cast and crew. They always had a quiet room on set so if William needed to take a break, he could step aside and just have a quiet place to regroup," Laura explained.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says more than five million adults in the U.S. have ASD.

By some estimates, their unemployment rate is 85%, making workplaces and hiring more inclusive can help open doors to people ready to contribute.

William may share a diagnosis with his character, but their personalities are very different.

"This kid's like the opposite of me. Yeah. He doesn't like hugs. All I know is I gave hugs every two minutes to the cast," William expressed.

A movie that embraced William, showing everyone what's possible.

"Ezra" also hired a neurodivergent producer and crew members to work behind the scenes.

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