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In 2005, Doctor Who returned to television after a 15-year hiatus, with Christopher Eccleston starring as the Ninth Doctor. More recently, we’ve seen him in dramas like The Leftovers (2014-2017) and Safe House (2015).

He’s now starring in a family comedy called The A Word, which refers to autism. Eccleston plays a man named Maurice, who is granddad to a little boy, Joe (Max Vento), on the spectrum.

The A Word premiered in 2016 and is now currently in its third season. If this is new to you, here’s a peek at the trailer for the first season:

Maurice is described as abrasive and blunt, but having taken a peek at the above, he is also a caring man.

Eccleston talked about playing this complicated character, saying to RadioTimes, “It’s an odd experience playing Maurice. There’s a kind of craziness to him, I think, a wild energy.”

It sounds like comedy is new to him and he’s still working it out, saying, “I mean, I’m an actor who really, my comfort zone is in serious drama. I find my performance in The A Word a little too broad and very difficult to watch. I have to say, I think you can see an actor still struggling with how to play comedy. But I’m very grateful for the opportunity to try.”

It’s very common for actors to find it hard to watch themselves on-screen, so we get where he’s coming from.

He elaborates on what he means by that, saying, “I find it a bit face-pull-y. It’s not a performance I can particularly look at, and it’s a performance that some of my close friends and family have questioned. It’s a difficult watch for me, Maurice, what I’m doing as Maurice. But with other people it seems to have registered… I’m glad that some people enjoy it.”

With the series in season three, they must be doing something right. So much so, that Eccleston is stopped on the street, with viewers approaching him to talk about the topics in the show: “The response I’ve had in the street, the number of times I’m stopped, and they don’t speak to me about Maurice, they speak to me about the portrayal of autism or the representation of Down’s Syndrome. So many people are touched by that.”

He says that the depiction isn’t done in an “overly serious” way, but instead “it’s just a part of people’s lives.”

The A Word airs on BBC One in the U.K. And you can find seasons one and two available over at SundanceTV. 

Is this going on your watch list? 

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By Brigid Brown