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‘Wildflower’ Director Matt Smukler & Stars Kiernan Shipka, Samantha Hyde, Dash Mihok And Kannon Omachi On Authentic Casting In Hollywood: “It’s Time” – Toronto Studio

“The story is inspired by my niece,” says director Matt Smukler. “One of parents has a cognitive disability… and so she’s this incredibly strong woman and I just felt like her story needed to be told.”

Based on a true story, Wildflower tells the coming-of-age story of Bea Johnson (Kiernan Shipka) as she navigates life with two intellectually disabled parents, played by Samantha Hyde and Dash Mihok.

The story begins with Bea Johnson in high school, where Shipka says she is “growing up in a family full of love and chaos and dysfunction. You meet her at a point in her life where she’s sort of finding herself and figuring out what the next steps of her life are going to be.”

In her first leading role, Samantha Hyde plays Bea’s mother who she describes as “Cinderella in a sweatsuit.” It was important for Hyde that they cast the role authentically to who the character is, as someone with a cognitive disability herself. “I was so thankful that I got to play a disabled character and see her as Cinderella,” says Hyde, “because I think if they cast an actor that wasn’t part of that community, they wouldn’t have seen her that way.”

Dash Mihok plays Bea’s father, whose disability was caused by an accident. “[He’s] disabled in a different way that keeps him sort of more of a simpler and humbler person in general,” says Mihok, “but one who is always looking to do the right thing.”

It was very important both Smukler and his screenwriter Jana Savage that they cast people with similar disabilities in the roles of Bea’s parents. “One thing that Samantha told me early on was, ‘I just want to be treated the same as everyone else,’” says Smukler. “That seems sort of obvious but really it’s not.”

“Matt has done such a great job creating a story where disability isn’t a dirty word, it’s just who they are,” says Hyde. “To me, that speaks so highly of them as artists that they understood where I think the industry should go, because it’s time.”

Click the video above to watch the full discussion.

The Deadline Studio is sponsored by dr Liza + the[fix] and Watford Group. Special thanks to our partner Soluna.

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