Astrid and Raphaëlle on France 2: "the complexity of autism is a great dramaturgical wealth" - News Séries on TV

Astrid and Raphaëlle on France 2: “the complexity of autism is a great dramaturgical wealth” – News Séries on TV

Meeting with Alexandre de Seguins, screenwriter and co-creator of the duo formed by Lola Dewaere and Sara Mortensen in Astrid and Raphaëlle, on the occasion of the broadcast of season 2 this evening on France 2.

Can you go back to the genesis of Astrid and Raphaëlle? What motivated the pilot’s writing with your co-author Laurent Burtin, before France 2 ordered a first season?

Alexandre de Seguins, co-creator and screenwriter: When I started working on this project, I knew very little about autism, not to say that I knew nothing about it! (laughs) I am a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, and I had heard that Conan Doyle was inspired by a character who would be autistic, or autistic-Asperger’s, and it is true that a number of traits of Sherlock Holmes can be compared to characteristics related to autism.

Soon enough, the idea arose to take these characteristics, special attention to detail and a lack of social ease, and embody them by justifying them with the traits of a character who might be autistic. It was the original idea. Then I did a lot of research to get it right, with the notion that a lot of the people who were going to watch the show would be like me, in other words not necessarily very knowledgeable about the issue.

The more I documented myself, the more I wanted to treat the subject as accurately as possible, keeping the initial idea of ​​writing a procedural, playful thriller, but in which one of the characters is autistic, and assuming its autistic dimension. This is a subject that touches many people: it is estimated that there are 600,000 people with autism in France. That’s a not insignificant percentage of the population, and we had to be vigilant in how to deal with it. What appeared to me quite quickly is that the subject is often a little too simplified when it is treated in fiction; this is a shame because the complexity of autism is an immense dramaturgical wealth.

I then discovered an author, Temple Grandin. She has written several books, including one called Think in pictures, and in this book she tells about her autism from the inside out. It’s a book that touched me a lot, and that inspired the character of Astrid a lot.

Gradually, the idea of ​​making a pair between an autistic character and a very neurotypical character, and of playing on the complementarities that there could be between them emerged. We wanted from the start that these two heroines bring each other, and that Astrid brings to Raphaëlle as much as the character of Raphaëlle brings to Astrid, that they are in a relationship of equal to equal.

In season 1, Raphaëlle helps Astrid a lot to face complicated situations for her due to her autism. Raphaëlle is a character devoid of a priori by essence, she does not have any towards Astrid when she meets her, and that plays a lot in the relationship that they are going to forge.

Finally, we wanted to meet people with autism, not to do a project dealing with autism without at any time integrating the people concerned into the process. I met Joseph Schovanec quite early on, who has lectured a lot on autism, and at the time of writing Season 1, we had the opportunity to have about ten people from different adult associations. autistic people who read the texts, and with whom we discussed the way we treated the subject.

We also try to integrate autistic actors in the cast, in autistic roles but not only, since Hugo Horiot played a neurotypical, William’s big brother who is in season 1 and part of season 2. Moreover, we got along very well with Hugo: in season 2, he became a privileged interlocutor throughout the writing.

We know that we cannot achieve unanimity on a subject such as the question of autism, but we are very vigilant about what we say around this about the character of Astrid, nourished by our meetings with autistic people. And right from the start, there was this idea of ​​bringing autistic people into the process.

Did you also want from the start to make a duo of women, with a strong relationship of friendship?

It came very early, yes, from the start we wanted to create an apparently female pair because it went well with the dynamics of the project, and also because we treat women with autism much less. Very often, they are men in the fictions.

For a long time it was believed that there were mostly autistic boys, and in fact we discovered a posteriori that there are at least as many girls as boys, but that a large part of them “camouflage” better. these autistic traits. These profiles of women are diagnosed very late, because for a very long time, their autistic features being less conspicuous, they feel strange and different, without knowing why.

There is a term that is starting to emerge, we speak of “neurodiversity”: we wanted to break the codes of representation a little, by forming a partnership with a friendship not despite the difference, but nourished by the difference. A very strong, soral friendship between the two characters.

In this new season, while Astrid (Sara Mortensen) thrives more and more and has new resources thanks to Raphaëlle (Lola Dewaere), we learn a little more about the latter’s past. How did you deepen their dynamics?

One of the first things that’s pretty organic about the show is that Astrid evolves. Just because she’s autistic doesn’t mean she’s a frozen character. Obviously, as it is a procedural series and not soap opera, the characters remain quite close to what they are, but we took the party at the end of season 1 to make rather radical choices about it.

We know that we cannot achieve unanimity on a subject such as the question of autism, but we are very vigilant about what we say around this about the character of Astrid, nourished by our meetings with autistic people. And right from the start, there was this idea of ​​bringing autistic people into the process.

A lot of people who are going to watch the show aren’t familiar with autism, and you don’t want to feel like it’s too easy to progress, or that it’s impossible to live in the world. Often, moreover, the difficulty comes from the environment rather than the person with autism. It would be like telling someone in a wheelchair to strain in front of a staircase. On the other hand, if you put on a ramp, suddenly your handicap is less of a nuisance in your daily life.

As a result, the season revolves a lot around Astrid’s new living environment, and besides, what is interesting is to see that behind her apparent solidity and her strength, Raphaëlle also has her flaws and her weaknesses, and it was interesting to go and develop that in his past.

There was something that touched us a lot: the relationship between Raphaëlle and her father, which we wanted to develop. Sometimes we don’t fully appreciate the impact that things are going to have on the screen, and the actor who plays Raphaëlle’s father, Michel Bonpoil, is absolutely great, and there is something that goes very well with Lola, which carries this fragile strength very well, with something very voluntary and a very sensitive sensitivity. She was perfect in this scene with her father.

For her character, the idea was that she would be able to stand up and bang her fist on the table if necessary, unlike Astrid who is more vulnerable, but who still has this inner fragility, face to which Astrid can be an ally.

For a long time it was believed that there were mostly autistic boys, and in fact we discovered a posteriori that there are at least as many girls as boys, but that a large part of them “camouflage” better. these autistic traits. These profiles of women are diagnosed very late, because for a very long time, their autistic features being less conspicuous, they felt strange and different without knowing why.

In this season 2, we also notice a slight change of look on the cops side for Raphaëlle, who now has natural curly hair, and Nicolas (Benoît Michel), who sports a mustache …

So Nicolas’s mustache is a bit of a coincidence. (laughs) There was no intention behind it at all. On the other hand, the change of look of Raphaëlle, it is Lola who appropriates her character. She is all the more Raphaëlle in this season than in the previous one; it is also the strength of a series, a character grows over time and becomes more and more fair. And it is true that there is an even greater adequacy between the character of Raphaëlle and her appearance, her style.

Personally, I found the criminal in the Season 1 finale to be very successful because he was almost elusive, both capable of disguising himself as Mr. Everyone and of falsifying DNA tests. Have you considered for the future to move from a closed-loop investigation format to semi-soap opera, introducing one big villain per season like a series like Dexter?

We really have a rather curly procedural serial DNA; afterwards, we like to bring our universe to life beyond the simple episode. For now, it’s in small touches, but there are a number of characters from season 1 returning in season 2: the tattoo artist, William’s brother … I can’t tell you too much because that there is nothing official for the moment, but when one thinks about the continuation, one imagines to bring back certain other characters.

The idea is that we are a complete series with continuity. Semi-leafing, I don’t know if that’s the right term, but it strikes me as fair enough that every investigation is a story in itself and should stand on its own, but end to end they tell a bigger story.

What do you think is the most complex about writing a survey?

Ah … (laughs) What is very particular in the detective genre is that in reality, the investigation is there to highlight the characters. What interests us the most is that it allows us to put the characters in a situation and to be themselves: in Dr House, what we want to see is Dr House doing Dr House. ! But for all that, for this to work, the mechanics of the thriller must be flawless.

In addition, we always try to take a step aside in Astrid and Raphaëlle. Sometimes we play close to the supernatural; we had ghosts, haunted houses, magic … Sometimes, it’s true that it gives us white hair because we always have to fall back on our steps: there is something that seems supernatural behind which we will find the rational explanation, and everything must remain simple and fun. That’s why I like the puzzle analogy: puzzles are Astrid’s specific interest, but that’s also how we view our writing. When you understand the mechanics, it must seem simple, but unbreakable at first glance, always keeping in view the pleasure of playing with the spectator.

Do you have other projects in the works, in parallel with the series?

I have a project with the same producer, Jean-Sébastien Bouilloux, who is within JLA the partner who has accompanied me since the genesis of the series. We have another project in development called The Lobster Shell, which I can’t say much about at the moment.

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