Many thanks to Peter Krause, Monica Potter, and Max Burkholder of NBC’s “Parenthood” who filmed this PSA to raise awareness about autism and Autism Speaks. This PSA, in the “The More You Know” series, aired after Tuesday night’s episode, Team Braverman, which featured members of the family participating in a Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.
This is a guest post by Aaron Likens, an adult author who has Asperger Syndrome. You can follow Aaron’s blog at lifeontheothersideofthewall.blogspot.com.
I started watching “The Apprentice” from the first episode in 2004 and have followed it every season since. I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2003 and started writing about my experiences in 2005. As I started to write Finding Kansas I had no idea if anyone would ever read my thoughts or feel with me as I wrote, but in an episode several months after I started to write, a new upstart charity was featured.
In that episode, Suzanne Wright, one of the founders of Autism Speaks, mentioned that their goal was to “give a voice for those who can’t speak”. I was so elated that the autism spectrum got air time and that the message of awareness was delivered through that episode and that elation translated into a deeper passion to share my story. It makes a profound impact when one realizes they aren’t fighting alone, and that episode and that quote was a turning point in my life.
Flash forward to this season of “The Celebrity Apprentice” and once again autism is a topic. Unlike the seasons that started the series that saw players playing for a job in the Trump organization, this season is the third installment of a Celebrity version where celebrities play for their favorite charity. Holly Robinson Peete has a deep connection and passion for her charity, the HollyRod Foundation that benefits those with autism, because she has a son with autism.
Going into Sunday’s episode there were five players left. Quickly the field would be “fired” to just two. Prior records were examined and a task that Holly won raised a non-finale record of $347,893!
The boardroom to determine the final two was an emotional and passionate battle. Sharon Osbourne made several comments about Holly’s huge heart, and Holly’s battle looking at her child each day and also, “I don’t know what I’d do if I had a child that wasn’t well; it’s devastating.”
I was moved by this, I live with being on the autism spectrum each day, and the compassion shown by Sharon towards Holly’s battle was much like that first moment I heard Suzanne Wright on that episode back in 2005.
Holly showed great resolve in these final boardrooms and after being interviewed by the first Apprentice, Bill Rancic, and last season’s celebrity winner, Joan Rivers, it was time for Donald Trump to choose who the final two would be.
The field was reduced to three, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, and Bret Michaels. Each of the three have a personal tie to their charities and each had been an amazingly strong player in the game. Mr. Trump took his time, and the moments on the television screen probably didn’t give justice to just how intense it was, and in the end Holly Robinson Peete and Bret Michaels made the final.
The final task involves making a new Snapple drink that will utilize their charity in the design. This is no easy task as they must make a 30-second television spot, a three-page ad, and make the drink in just three days.
Who won? The finale is next week and either Bret Michaels or Holly Robinson Peete will hear the words, “You’re hired!” I know who has already won though. Autism is often misunderstood and still there are those that don’t know what it is. For those who have it, or know someone who does, autism is a 24/7 condition that there is no current cure for. For families to see the resolve and passion that Holly Robinson Peete has shown for her cause, she has surely evoked a sense of hope.
I started writing my best work once I knew I wasn’t alone and there was someone out there that knew what autism was and the challenges that goes along with it. That was five years ago, and once again Donald Trump’s television show, “The Apprentice,” may give others that same passion I felt. So, win or lose in the game, Holly Robinson Peete is a winner in more ways than she may ever know.
Tune in to NBC’s “Parenthood” next Tuesday, May 18 at 10 p.m./9 Central. The all-new episode, Team Braverman, features members of the family participating in a Walk Now for Autism Speaks event.
Peter Bell, Autism Speaks’ Executive Vice President, was on set in Los Angeles and penned a blog post about his experience. Earlier this season, we spoke with Jason Katims, the show’s writer and executive producer. He tells how having a 13-year-old son with Asperger Syndrome inspired one of the show’s main storylines.
Check your local listings for show information.
UPDATE: Watch the entire episode here on Hulu. Also, the episode is being re-broadcast on Saturday, May 22 at 8 p.m. EDT. Check your local listings for show information.
Watch “The More You Know” PSA starring the cast of “Parenthood,” which aired after the episode.
This guest post is by Peter Bell, executive vice president for programs and services at Autism Speaks. Peter and his wife, Liz, reside in New Jersey with their three children. Their eldest son, Tyler, has autism.
On April 15, when most people were scrambling to file their tax returns, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will hopefully make a profound difference for Autism Speaks and the autism community.
As many people know, the new NBC hit series “Parenthood” has a story line that involves a family coming to grips with their son’s recent diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. For any family that has gone through the experience of having a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, you quickly realize just how easy it is to relate to the Braverman family. The show has beautifully captured the range of emotions our families go through during this difficult time.
So, when the producers of “Parenthood” approached Autism Speaks recently and asked if we would be interested in helping to film a future episode that would include an Autism Speaks Walk, the answer was without reservation “yes, of course!” To add icing on the cake, they also invited us to provide a real person to play the role of the Autism Speaks representative on the stage of the walk – that’s when this became a personal journey for me.
With just a few days notice, I was off to Los Angeles. Lucky for me, my body was still on East Coast time for the 7 a.m. call time. After signing all the necessary paperwork (I think I’m now a member of SAG), I was taken to the make-up trailer. There were about five chairs with make-up artists doing their magic on various actors. My second stroke of luck came when they seated me next to Monica Potter who plays Kristina Braverman, mother of Max.
I was told by some other “autism moms” at Autism Speaks to tell Monica how much they love her performance as the take-no-prisoners mom of Max. I faithfully shared this sentiment as they were removing the curlers from her hair and another make-up person was dabbing my face with something that felt cakey. It was sort of a surreal moment for me but I think she realized that this was the highest form of a compliment one can get, besides an Emmy, of course.
After a quick change into my wardrobe (special walk t-shirt, khaki pants and my own running shoes), it was time to report to the set. The walk venue was set in a community park not far from Century City. Since the series takes place in Berkeley, California, they had to be careful not to have any palm trees in the background. They transported us from the trailers to the set in a van and this is where I met Max Burkholder, the incredible child actor who plays Max Braverman, the young boy with Asperger’s. Naturally he was with his real mom and we enjoyed a nice conversation about his role and how he gets into character. Although his character is only eight years old on the show, he is actually 12 years old.
Once we arrived on the set, I had a chance to meet Peter Krause who plays Adam Braverman, Max’s dad. Fortunately, we connected on many levels. In addition to sharing our common name, we are both dads. Although Peter K does not have a child with autism, it was obvious that he takes great pride in having an eight-year-old son. We talked a lot about autism, what is known scientifically (and not), what’s behind the large increase, how families cope, etc. He was genuinely interested in learning everything he could about the condition and what families go through. I complimented him on his ability to capture the feelings that many dads go through when their sons are first diagnosed. Peter K was remarkably kind and fun to be with for the rest of the day.
Next – rehearsal. Since they were recreating a walk, which often attracts thousands of participants, they brought in more than 200 extras to create the feeling of a Walk Now for Autism Speaks event. I was really impressed that they were able to replicate the look and feel of our walks – then again this is Hollywood. After a few run-throughs it was time to “roll film.” Our scene was only about a minute long but we ended up doing it about 15-20 times. They needed to film it from several angles. Each time was a little different which allowed for some creative interpretations in how we delivered our lines. Which take they will use in the final cut is anybody’s guess but the amiable director, Lawrence Trilling, seemed pleased.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of this experience was how wonderfully kind the cast and crew were. Each person was truly amazing. They were upbeat, deeply interested in autism, compassionate and energetic. Executive Producer/Writer Jason Katims, who has a teenage son with Asperger Syndrome, was on set for much of the day and really is the creative juice behind the Braverman family’s autism story line. He confers with autism experts who are always on hand to make sure everything is as authentic as possible.
The episode is expected to air in mid-May and is the 12th of 13 episodes this season. The show has not been renewed for the fall yet, so please be sure to watch and tell all your friends and family to tune in. Autism Speaks will provide more information as the air date nears.
As for this dad, I’m back on the East Coast living my own wonderful version of “Parenthood.” I’m thankful that the world is learning more and more about autism spectrum disorders and the joys and challenges it can bring to an entire family via this groundbreaking series.
This week’s “Celebrity Apprentice” recap is written by Amy Hummell. Amy is the Arizona Director at Autism Speaks and has kept up with The Apprentice ever since its first show.
What an interesting episode of “Celebrity Apprentice” …
Starting where they left off last week, everyone was trying to guess who would be fired. The consensus was Bret “Every Rose Has its Thorn” Michaels, but then he appeared and Sinbad did not. We then cut away to Maria Kanellis, who is meeting with John Paul, a youngster who was diagnosed with acute lymphoma leukemia at the age of five. His wish, being granted by Make-A-Wish Foundation, is to meet Donald Trump (interesting, for a five-year-old). Maria said we will see him again at the finale show and he will get to meet “The Donald.” In the meantime, he had the task of delivering $20,000 to the home offices!
The episode’s theme was identity theft and the celebrities were to make a 4-page advertorial, choose a celebrity spokesperson and then present their photos, ad, and ideas to the executives from Norton and Lifelock. (Whew!) It could have helped to receive a formal definition of “advertorial” (foreshadowing), but nonetheless, the teams perservered. Summer volunteered to lead the women and Darryl Strawberry nominated Michael Johnson (more foreshadowing). Also, instead of Ivanka this week, we were treated to Gavin Maalouf, of The Palms Hotel & Casino and the Sacramento Kings.
At first, everyone was excited for Summer to lead them. But then they were waiting for Summer to lead them … and waiting and waiting. Although Summer is a great of a communicator and super organized, she truly struggled with the vision and message of this project for this campaign. I mean, seriously, she heard about it four hours before and she couldn’t get it together?! Then she started complaining about Cyndi Lauper again and all of her monotonous questions – doesn’t Summer remember one of Cyndi’s best friends is Rosie O’Donnell?
Michael Johnson, on the other hand, was crisp and clean with an overall vision and delegation expertise. (Much smoother than last week with Sinbad.) The trouble started when Bret Michaels began asking questions and spouting thoughts - basically coming up with all sorts of ideas, some quite good, that simply weren’t Michael’s ideas. Bret took a backseat, only to have Former Gov. Rod step up to let people know that he isn’t really good at anything. The former Governor of Illinois can’t type and he can’t help himself from saying hello to people on the street. The guys keep thinking it is a political thing, but we know the truth – self importance and need for the limelight!
Sharon Osborne is chosen as the celebrity spokesperson from the ladies team to become “The Protector.” Curtis Stone was chosen for the men’s team as the spokesperson since he is hip and now. Curtis is the “everyday man” while the product was faster than Michael Johnson and stronger than Goldberg.
Then the work really got started – Maria and Cyndi went to go get props. When Cyndi shows the ladies at the store “the face,” they immediately receive a $100 discount. Cyndi then carries everything and Maria declares this to be the Cyndi Lauper Workout 101. Darryl and Rod go out for the props needed by the boys’ team, but the only excitement is when Gov. Rod keeps introducing himself to people.
Our hero, Holly Robinson Peete, seemed to be the glue, especially when it came to technology- with those long nails clacking away on the keyboard trying to get the Powerpoint finished. Of course, the computer hookup did not work through the house audio visual. It did get going and then, once again, Sharon Osborne burst into a coughing fit!
On the boys’ side, Bret was working with the graphic artist and coming up with cool ideas that Michael Johnson didn’t want. They went with his idea of keeping to the letter of the law for the definition of an advertorial. Who knew Michael was so smart? He said he would read every word from the word-heavy ad, and we believe him. The trouble is there aren’t many people like him any longer. Short, picture 1,000 words, etc. - that is what consumers read and comprehend.
In the board room, the men looked very dapper in their suits and ties, while the girls wore black pant suits with the bright gold yellow t-shirts emblazoned with the company logo on the front. In the end, the executives liked the women’s idea better so Summer took the win with $20,000 for Right to Play. In addition, as the winning team, all of the new products will have a portion of their sales go towards Right to Play, too.
It was time for the men to face the music – this is where it gets strange.
Everyone thought Michael Johnson was such an incredible leader that they didn’t know who to fire. So Darryl Strawberry spoke up, thinking he was making a point and asked to be fired. He was tired and he wanted to let Michael continue to excel. Perhaps since he nominated Michael, his failing and being fired would have been too much for him and his ego. Crazy cat, indeed!
The saddest part was that Darryl Strawberry was playing for The Darryl Strawberry Foundation, which supports people affected by autism. This being said, Holly Robinson Peete was personally disappointed.
As I said in the beginning, it was an interesting night on the Celebrity Apprentice indeed!
Would you like to be next week’s guest blogger? Send your recap of “Celebrity Apprentice” to firstname.lastname@example.org, prior to 8 a.m. next Monday. We will select our favorite for posting here.
What follows is an interview with Jason Katims, writer and executive producer of the NBC hit series “Parenthood.” “Parenthood“ airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m.