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April 2011



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Paddy Considine


Award-winning actor Paddy Considine talks for the first time about being diagnosed with Asperger’s – at the age of 36.

11:58PM BST 09 Apr 2011

One way or the other, Paddy Considine has been acting all his life. In recent years his talents have won him acclaim both in Britain and Hollywood but as a child, he says, it was pure survival. “I got through with my ability to mimic others and make people laugh,” he says. “I swaggered through life but, in reality, I lived in fear pretty much every day. I acted like a completely normal person, and I suppose I was good at it. But, inside, it was a very different story.”

You will recognise the actor from his roles in gritty television dramas such as Red Riding; or as New-Age mystic Graham in this year’s word-of-mouth hit Submarine; or perhaps from his collaborations with cutting-edge director Shane Meadows in Dead Man’s Shoes and A Room for Romeo Brass. Today, however, we’re talking about his sortie into more prime-time drama: his starring role in the adaptation of Kate Summerscale’s best-selling book, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

What starts as a discussion about the problems facing a Victorian detective, placed under enormous public pressure to solve the brutal murder of a little boy, has suddenly segued into a conversation about the difficulties the actor himself faces on a daily basis.

Roughly a year ago, aged 36, Considine was finally diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, one of a spectrum of disorders relating to difficulties with communication and social skills that includes autism at its furthest extreme.

“For a few weeks after the diagnosis, I was wandering around thinking, ‘Who the hell am I?’ But naming my problem has helped me a lot. It’s allowed me to make sense of so many things I didn’t understand before – and is allowing me to move forward with my life.”

Indeed, so good an actor is Considine that if he wasn’t telling me about his condition now, I would never guess he was a sufferer. True, sitting opposite him, the wiry Midlander can seem intense and as nervy as a racehorse. Yet at the same time he is funny, open and warm with no sign of the inability to relate to others that often comes with the condition.

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James Durbin and Paddy Considine: Asperger idols

AP/”In America”
James Durbin and Paddy Considine

James Durbin and Paddy Considine: Asperger idols

Two high-profile performers are out to prove that being on the spectrum won’t get in the way of stardom

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

The entertainment industry gives a wide berth to stars who behave differently than most. Being unconventional or just a little off center has never stood in the way of stardom. But acting different is one thing. Being different has, traditionally, been a whole other kettle of fish. And nothing makes a person different in quite the way Asperger syndrome does. But in recent weeks, two very different high-profile performers have been out to prove that being on the autism spectrum doesn’t have to keep a person from going far.

First, “American Idol” contender James Durbin, the one with the fauxhawk who isn’t Paul, has been distinguishing himself this season not just for his shattering high notes but his groundbreaking role as “Idol’s” first contestant with either Tourette’s or Asperger’s (Durbin has both). Then, this week, British actor Paddy Considine, best known in the States for “In America,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and the “Red Riding” miniseries, revealed in The Telegraph that he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome last year at age 36, and spoke candidly of the “debilitating sense of detachment” his condition can bring. “Basic interaction with people — the touch of strangers — becomes a problem,” he said. “My response is to retreat into myself.”

In the past few years, thanks to the success of books like “Look Me in the Eye,” the public understanding about people with Asperger’s has increased dramatically, though the condition itself remains deeply enigmatic. We understand now that Asperger’s exists among our colleagues, friends and families. But the notion of someone with a condition that affects socialization being able to pull off rock star charisma still seemed like a stretch, until very recently. Is it possible for a guy with talent and creativity — but serious challenges when it comes to human interaction — to make it big in show business? “With a script, I just can’t get past the words,” says Considine. “They start to float in front of my eyes and I can’t pull them down or animate them. It can lead to me giving a very withdrawn performance.”

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