46. Coming Down The Mountain: Our Interview with Julie Anne Robinson


Hello and welcome to the If We Knew Then podcast I’m Stephen Saux

and I’m Lori Saux

And today we’re joined by Julie Anne Robinson. Writer, director, producer

And one of our favorite humans. You may be most recently familiar with her work on BRIDGERTON. I met Julian on a television show called ‘I Feel Bad’ and it introduced me to one of my favorite movies ‘Coming Down The Mountain’ which you can watch on Prime Video. It is the story of two brothers and one of those brothers just happens to have down syndrome it was the first movie that I watched that had a character with down syndrome that was an actual real depiction and all the relationships just rings so true to life and so to be able to speak with Julie today about inclusion and diversity it was a special treat we hope you enjoy it welcome Julian Robinson how are you %HESITATION it’s so nice to see your faith thank you we’re so excited to talk to you today %HESITATION good you know I know that with when we first met you introduce me to your movie coming down the mountain and we were I was able to watch it with Steven and then also we watched it with Liam and Sophia is reputed to it was such a great experience to watch with Liam and Sophia and %HESITATION and just because for me I feel like so if it benefits a fear because she’s a sibling and I think that sometimes she probably has thoughts and feelings that are are hard to navigate because of the situation so it was really great to be able to share it as a family oh that’s great yes and %HESITATION it was also wonderful because I feel like there was a an effect on Liam because Liam watches lots of movies and he never sees anybody with down syndrome and the character is so strong yes he is he’s very strong he’s very strong and and Tommy was very strong to the active he was very opinionated well %HESITATION do you wanna start with telling us a little bit about yourself %HESITATION my name is Julie Anne Robinson I am a television director and producer and I have been for a long time I guess about fifteen years I’ve been working in the industry and I did a movie called coming down the mountain with was which was written by a writer called mark Haddon who’s best known for the curious incident of the dog in the night time he wrote that book it was his only screenplay mock decided that he was going to conquer each area that he chose to tackle so he is he’s a poet he’s a playwright and in this instance he decided to write a screenplay in that I was part of the development of the screenplay and the director of the movie Julie had you had any experience with somebody with town center before this movie no never not non nana tool no experience did you have any expectations or what were your expectations going into it you know it was such a long process developing the script we it we took thirty two drafts before the B. B. C. decided to make it it was agonizing and so by the time the B. B. C. decided to green lighted it was so much a part of and I was involved basically for most of those states to draft so by the time they decided to green light to it was just so part of me that %HESITATION there was no kind of anxiety moving full it working with an actor with down syndrome did you have any expectations about what that would be like I didn’t I didn’t I know that was one of your questions and I’m I’m being being truthful I as a director I kind of take people as they come and so I felt you know we we auditioned many many people we auditioned about three hundred actors for that role and we had a big we had group coals for actors and then we we just before we found Tommy %HESITATION %HESITATION when we found Tommy we decided to you know it it was just he is another actor as far as I was concerned and all actors as you know how’s that different challenges and the strong suits and %HESITATION that’s how I felt about tell me man I love you beautiful I wish the rest of the world with so much that that’s that’s just how that’s what we want to hear it because you you know a lot of %HESITATION what our experiences ban is just different perceptions that people have of our son and they have different expectations and that puts different limits on him and and barriers that he unnecessary barriers that he has to break through so when someone says they had no expectation that this makes me just another actor yeah that just makes me happy because that’s that but that’s that’s who you are and that’s %HESITATION it’s it’s really refreshing I think just the movie the way it impacted me as that it was the first time that I had seen somebody with a character portrayed with down syndrome that was just the just like you said just a person and this the sibling rivalry you know it’s a fee and I did have a conversation about you know being a brother and sister and and what that was and and she said well I never felt like pushing them down a mountain but it was just so great to have a real relationship and even just have that edge of these feelings can bring angst and it’s just so real and I’m and I loved that because it was a conversation that nobody has I think it now it was interesting because I only had my gosh it might I only had my one oldest son who is now sixteen I just had him and we’ve got two kids one is four years younger and he’s sixteen and then twelve and I now look at my kids and I think gosh we did get it right you know we did get it right with that sibling rivalry and how I mean my kids they love each other %HESITATION but then this moments where they hate each other and I feel really proud from that point of view and I also think that something that was really important was is that %HESITATION we had Nicole laying the other character because Nick is such a committed acts up and he he didn’t care about being likable you know he didn’t care about how we came across he was just playing those scenes for the absolute intensity of the emotions within the scenes and he was very close to the age I mean he was gosh I think he would have been about seventeen when he made that so he understood from the inside what that adolescent first love felt like and the psychological impact of that and he just would let me have it you know he would just go there and and it’s only in retrospect but you realize you know we were really lucky to have Nick in that role I mean that was yeah a great piece of casting yeah what were fans of his work but it is definitely that all all of those pieces definitely come through because when we you know when you’re talking about Nicole’s the truth to it that he was committed to that road that’s hard that’s really hard as parents unit one of one of our challenges is you for in the store were someplace with lamb that to actually participate as parents were aware that sometimes people are like Hey lady yeah that boy has down syndrome you give them a time out and people are like whoa because it doesn’t happen right and I think I think that was one as far as the brother that was so great for Sophia to see and and I encourage everybody to watch it just for siblings you know just for siblings to it it’s like this entitlement to have all of your emotions two to just be have that same liberty the everybody gets and then fruit for Liam just that that role to have such a strong role written and and I think one of my favorite lines as when he’s mad at his brother for always being the favorite and he says that mom and dad like me because I’m happy and you’re always just depressed so has nothing to do with the down syndrome is just you’re kind of a you know a bummer and I just I just love it because I think that that entire movie could be cast with a typical actor with my kids now right like as far as inclusion that is that that is the true depiction of inclusion when it’s interchangeable I don’t I can’t say enough about the film and I love it and impacted me and and I always you know referred to it to people to watch it just because I think it it also speak so honestly about the parents and these poor parents who are doing their best which every parent is always doing their best but when you’re dealing with a child with special needs I mean you you guys just now that you got it right across the board because we’re gonna fail and just all that because all those feelings and severe was watching it and she was like well that’s because the dad was being mean and I was like no the dad wasn’t he was just doing his best right %HESITATION you you’ve did mention Bridger ten and that oh man inclusion it’s so beautiful to turn on the TV and just to see unapologetic inclusion thank god it’s just that’s how it should be Julie it’s so beautiful %HESITATION thank you yes yes it was %HESITATION it was hot but I’m I’m really obviously really proud of it now on the in terms of the casting I was very keen on it it was always going to be diverse as far as I was concerned %HESITATION when I went into my first meeting with shondaland and obviously they were already thinking that way I was thinking slightly differently I was going to cast the bridges and family as diverse and they had already I didn’t know that queen Charlotte was historically black so and it’s really interesting when you start to look into that and you start looking at the pictures of queen Charlotte you can see that she was painted as white but she was actually %HESITATION diverse and then once you start building out from that thought it was really interesting so they built out from last idea that she had elevated people to high rank that was the thinking behind that casting across the board it wasn’t as simple as simple color blind casting but for me I’m fine with color blind casting so you know for a different project that might be the way to go well the the race had nothing to do with the show and that was what was so fun and and that’s where you talking about the way you you saw Tommy when you cast him nothing you don’t see things it’s just that they don’t matter yes yes and I suppose that sounds terribly naive and it probably is very naive %HESITATION but that’s definitely my dance that’s my situation we had a twenty minute conversation what naive was last night somebody call me naive us that because we we had been talking about is about diversity book called how to how to tie racist and it was a book a book club we’re doing and and someone had said maybe I’m naive and she said she said it would you’d have to be naive to think that and I was like well and I eve that I’m kind of debating what naive man what we talking about what they were talking you know we’re on like chapter seven eight nine and they’re talking about you know racism and the tattoo that that the racism is kind of left behind and can we can we look beyond it can we actually move forward in the anti racist is it possible it’s a questionable yeah and I immediately said yes it’s a it’s a choice and I said well how much time do we have what we talking like my lifetime the lifetime of humanity so it was like that then I got to know and then somebody else had no idea that it wasn’t and so I said it a I may be naive but I think it’s just a choice I think and I am actually mentioned you I I mention Bridger ten I mentioned Lin Manuel just that it’s it is just a choice it’s that it’s that taking that step and just doing it and that’s that’s what they did with Hilton that’s what you guys do it pretend that you just you make the choice that you’re gonna make the change and and then you just do it and the and that’s man I can I of course when I was when I was watching Bridget and I didn’t know it was you and then it got to the end and I went to course well it’s funny I have been in this position before I cast John show in selfie so that role was imagined as a white upper class Englishmen like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady and it took a really long time to persuade top to bottom of everybody in that chain that don chose a perfect choice and I still love that show and don’t show was the perfect choice but it’s you know it’s sometimes it’s hard to if you have a very clear idea of how something should be it’s hard to kind of get past that hello beautiful part is the almost universal acceptance of the choices that you made and the choices that were made because it can be controversial I guess but then is put out their media and to see the acceptance is a wonderful thing and a wonderful thing to say about our time and and that this momentum can continue and keep going yeah yeah I really I really really hope so but thank you for those words it really means a lot well it’s true it N. it and you also you’re setting the groundwork to you know when my daughter turns on TV that’s what she’ll see and I think that’s where when people see it then you know sometimes it takes seeing it before the change can really hold out you know and then than other people do and then it’s of course why not why weren’t we doing this before yeah right yeah gosh I feel quite emotional thank you I’ve never even really thought about it this way %HESITATION yeah you you you’re a and and that’s probably just because that’s who you are and I’d love to know what made you that way because everybody needs some of that in them everybody needs a lot of that in them but you know you’ve made me think because I feel bad was never originally intended to be an Indian family did you know that no I didn’t know if people assume that because it was written by a seam but it wasn’t we auditioned many actresses for that role many actresses and sorry one it and as a result of her winning the role we then cast the family as the south Asian and M. yes so that’s how that show turned out to be what it was but it was never it was never written asked that it was written at the honesty is a white family and what’s interesting is Paul Edelstein who is a good friend arm the census up by the way he was cast before sorry you hand the blended family component which then we went on to write to well so do you want I don’t know what it was so perfect and I think just having that diversity just telling those distant when my best friends is Indian and she doesn’t get that like her kids get to see themselves on TV right and just telling different stories in different cultures and having that I’d love to just learning because then I could I could go to my friend who’s a good friend of mine and I could share a little bit deeper and who she was no it was so good that seem was able to really you know dig into her heritage to really to really write to that but it is it it’s funny it’s funny when you start thinking about it I literally right now I just remembered because it became what it was and it was so much what it was %HESITATION but I’d forgotten how it started it was such a beautiful show is set to such be really beautiful people well it takes a wonderful quality in in you and and and the people that producing that that show for that to even be an option as well to even have an option to cast yeah I’m with you and I was always I I loved sorry you and does she spoken about the audition but she came in and she she walked down hello you know I’m but you got a pass off to trace Acosta who was head of comedy at NBC network now she’s head of comedy at Netflix and you know hats off she she saw who the best person was no offense to everybody else who auditioned but she’s so sorry %HESITATION she fell in love with her and that that we have all shown well I think if you’re aware of it or not barriers are being broken and and by the shows and we’ve mentioned him a couple times on the podcast but I think in Norman Lear and I think of the advocacy that he may not even totally been aware that he was doing and I think we’ll look back at the shows and see that true progress comes in tangent with it Justin telling the stories yes yeah in a truthful honest way unapologetically completely that is a great sadness that isn’t still on I think if it had been on even a year later it would have had a different ride but I am it was still very new very and a kind of a a new thing for the network to promote to pot from anything else I think people want quite sure how to promote it it was difficult it was difficult for everybody to understand on every level what they had really I think that happens when you’re the when you’re the first you know when you’re when you’re doing something new that you know maybe in a couple years and especially I feel like inclusion is now becoming a conversation that people are having and there’s lots of ways that it’s being incorporated but it won’t get to be where it’s true inclusion and tell it doesn’t have to be like a conversation where we understand where we should put it because it will be that everybody gets to tell their story and see their story yeah I think it’s some you know it’s really it’s really important I think the U. K. is much better than the U. S. is I don’t know if you’ve noticed but %HESITATION in terms of inclusion on television specifically for disabled people %HESITATION it’s much more open to that I think whether it’s part of the man B. B. C. mandate but it people just take it for granted far more than they do here I find it so refreshing when I go back and watch TV and to me that’s my next area of challenge both in front of the camera behind the camera that something that I’m really trying to push through and %HESITATION just have representation on screen %HESITATION because that to me is you know that’s the big area that is not being challenged right now you know the history of Hollywood and the history of entertainment in the US has being on the whole white beautiful people seeing themselves represented onscreen are aspirational in that way you know M. and everybody else’s stories have been left out and when you do get shows it’s kind of inspiration you know it’s the you get the one character in the CEO of kind of Nero typical whatever people and %HESITATION they are inspirational with their insights and %HESITATION you don’t get a wide representation on screen and that’s what I’m I’m really keen on and I’m trying to do something about not only on camera but behind the scenes as well I think it’s about time that area was tackled so it’s interesting that we’re talking about coming down the mountain sorry that’s my rant how that translates into Liam’s life is that he walks into a grocery store and it is everything is inspirational you know every everything is a cheer but there’s no expectations on quality of life you know we fight for his education every year we have a lawyer and have to sit in just for him to be able to be included in a classroom and and that’s because there’s not a true depiction of that he’s a whole person with the same struggles right and he has a sister who has the same struggles as as any other sibling and he has an oceans it can be up and down and that’s a that’s okay he’s a he’s an eleven year old boy and and that’s it so I don’t it’s it’s not a rant at all it’s you you nailed it when you say that that it does have to end and I think this is where it changes because media and television and movies they have so much power in our lives especially during the pandemic I mean that was the first place everybody turned right to see stories and hear stories and and the stories like coming down the mountain they they impact and their true and and they’re real and they make a change and they validate they validate our lives you know the lives of parents the lives of an individual with down syndrome the lies of a sibling date G. because it’s all just real yeah absolutely we do have a lot of gas from the U. K. because I have found that the the changes are are happening there quicker than the United States and definitely a much bigger down surgeon community presence on social media and that’s kind of how we’ve reached out at this time for gas and for story lines we had a story line about Emmerdale and some controversy that was happening there and if that had happened in the states I don’t think it would have been a of an uproar about it I know that show had done some good and then there’s some controversy and what was the controversy controversy was that there was a child with down syndrome on for years and then the the best friend that gets pregnant who’s older she finds out that she has a child with down syndrome and she aborts the child so they were like Emmerdale you had a chance to to not go there which is the ninety percent choice you had a chance to maybe make an influence and then there was a backlash of like well I mean really does this influence anybody but we know that that media influences and I think part of the the problem was that you know with their argument was about women’s rights which those are so important but that wasn’t really the story that was being told because it was not just the right it was that this is a decision was being based upon down syndrome just barely barely does a trend so so it wasn’t really because because the story line where this is the mother’s decision and it’s a hard decision that’s one story line because that’s real and true but then when you throw in that %HESITATION well it’s because of this then that devalues his joy of the pregnancy initially and then she finds out and and so like I’m astounded by that it’s like why would you want to put the on screen it’s just that the choices in it anyway that I I don’t know hi I am we were told that there was a possibility that my oldest would have down syndrome and dumb we were told well the way to find out is to have an am neo and dumb we just decided it was too we didn’t want to take the risk that seems like a risky maneuver so we decided not to and it was quite ironic because I once I actually started developing coming down the mountain quite soon after I gave birth so it’s funny because when you look back on things I don’t think I ever really made that connection but that didn’t happen but that’s yes I can see why that story would be problematic to say the least when when you’re pregnant that’s a when they that’s one of the tests that are so heavy handed I know here in the United States like that’s the one test that they play pretty much mandated such a push to have you find out if your child has down syndrome and then there it’s a really horrible conversation afterwards we’ve spoken to so many moms and our experience when Liam was born was you could have done something and it’s just that you would say that up to a mom whose child is fighting for his life is like I mean I do find your work very moving your the the pieces that I’ve watched that you’ve made very moving indeed and really insightful all that means to you thank you no absolutely I I con we get them yeah the one that you sent me after the wrap party just absolutely beautiful the want to want yeah that that’ll be it yet yeah beautiful %HESITATION thank you to everyone to watch it now well thank you and I well we feel the same about the things that you create because it’s just such a it’s so important Julie and it means so much you know %HESITATION just talking about when you were pregnant and having that be up to be approached about having an am now and and that decision that’s one of the things that we really tried to advocate for moms to just not have I mean I don’t know how it felt do you even remember what you felt when they or how it was delivered the news Sir it was an intense time you know it wasn’t without a motion but ultimately we was both of us you know we just decided that the risks which is too high to the child so we that’s why we decided not to proceed it just seems so kind of it seems like a very aggressive maneuver so we just decided we don’t we don’t guide the way it’s fine you know we’ll just it’s fine I haven’t thought about it literally in sixteen years but I do remember that %HESITATION quite clearly once yes sometimes there’s such a negative connotation with a diagnosis and that’s part of the reason we developed this podcast is just to to bring a positive story to to some things yeah I think it’s great I think it’s great one your stories do the same and we and we you know at a at a much bigger level no and we appreciate them no I don’t think so I’m %HESITATION you’ve got I watched some of your podcast you got great production values yeah no it’s great and one of your questions was do I work with people with a disability or other people with a disability in my life so at this point what I thought I would talk about is %HESITATION I don’t if you know the school frosting schools you know frosting no I’m so both of my kids have been to the school it’s cold frosty again is a specific school for kids with special needs so both my kids have got some kind of profound symbol recognition issues I eat dyslexia %HESITATION the second the twelve year old has it even worse on the my oldest my sixteen year old and my second kids got ADD and my first kid has ADHD and so they’ve both been through this school and we left the school it’s just such a wonderful community and it was very interesting my my youngest son who’s going there at the moment he was in a Montessori school before and I used to go in right watch him in the Montessori school and he had a lot of really good friends but they were all moving on and moving on and moving on academically and in a Montessori school it’s the you tend to it was a very very strict Montessori school so you go you get your job they collect take your job do the job and then put the job away and I would watch him and he would be going through the motions they would be completely hello he would just be pretending to do the job which involved often reading math something and all of his friends would be going on and so anyway so he went to the school frosting and you could tell almost immediately he felt like he was included in he’d found his people and so I do think it’s really important you were talking about your battles two how have your child accommodations required for Liam in a mainstream school I would say as well it’s very hard for parents to accept that their child is maybe not going to get on in a mainstream school ideally you know it’s hard to kind of sink well maybe he’s really good in the community of people where he doesn’t feel he’s the only one you know he didn’t have to be different he could he was in with everybody else and that made just psychologically to his confidence his confidence sold so what’s going to be interesting now for him is he’s re entering mainstream education next year and %HESITATION it’s funny I was talking to him the other day he was reading out loud and he finds it very very difficult and I said to him what you could do at school next year if they say to you it would read this out loud to the class you know I said what do you what do you gonna say and he said well I’m going to get really good at reading so I can read out loud in front of the class and not you he’s always gonna be find it very difficult to read no matter how hard he tries and so what I’m hoping for him and I said well you can say to the teacher you know I’m not comfortable doing that I don’t feel that it’s it’s it’s you know I just hope that he can learn to advocate for himself in the mainstream setting because I think that’s the most that that’s going to be critical really for him is that he he learns the skills because everybody deserves a place in that classroom and I just feel he he’s he’s got so much confidence now I would hate to see it crashed in the mainstream school setting I’d love to know what you guys think about that the the verbiage is that he has the support that he needs the access as curriculum and the least restrictive environment that’s that’s it and there’s so many different things and and I think that’s that’s the goal like you said is everybody deserves a place in that classroom yes you know and it’s just like to see everybody dancing at the ball it’s the same thing so there are there are lots of different things that he should just have in place that will give him the support even if it’s just the conversation with the teacher that if he doesn’t that he can volunteer when he feels comfortable to read and not to be called upon because that’s for his you know that’s that’s for his spirit right the thing is it’s less to do with the combinations and more to do with the self advocacy I think I really hope that the school he’s in now will do that for him but also it would be good to know if there’s any way he can go and get special maybe training in how to advocate for himself I just want to see him thrive you know right you want to C. M. S. five and succeed and there’s so many ways for him to do it and that’s really you know that those supports are out there for him and that’s that’s the goal we have a great episode with the behaviour listed even talks about you know I have different habits I have different things that that are accommodated in society right so we all do so that’s kind of the groundwork and the foundation that we have to give our children and by doing that and by creating these inclusive classrooms and creating this beautiful tapestry on the on the television and film that’s what we do we we create that and those seats that are then planted are ones of inclusion and are ones of diversity and we’re so happy that you could join us and I know you have to cut it short and we’re we’re honored and thrilled and so grateful to Marie definitely I’ll come back any time it’s great to talk to you again I think what you’re doing is really really important and %HESITATION we should keep talking yes I’d like that because we feel what you’re doing is equally as important.

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