Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.
Rick Glassman plays an autistic 25-year-old navigating the world of dating, a tech job, and caring for his cancer-stricken father in the superb new dramedy series, As We See It. (All eight episodes of the series dropped on Amazon Prime Video on January 21st.)
For all the new series that file into our streaming carousels, few feel as brave as the new Amazon Original series created by Jason Katims. Based on the Israeli series On the Spectrum (and Katims’ own experiences having an autistic child who is now an adult), As We See It deals with three twentysomething roommates on the spectrum as they struggle to fit into a fast-paced world.
What’s notable here is that each character is played by an actor who identifies as being on the spectrum. One of them is Jack (Rick Glassman), a computer programmer we first meet in a tense exchange at work when his boss, in front of others, openly questions the efficacy of a program he wrote. As Jack’s anxiety mounts, his neurodiverse difficulty in navigating complex social situations comes to the forefront, leading him to counter his boss with: “That’s a completely asinine statement” and “I understand you have inferior intelligence.”
Jack’s inability to filter becomes an instant problem for his boss, who sends him to HR, presumably to get fired. But not before Jack grabs two muffins on his way out and insists on being paid until the end of the pay period — so that he can afford a Roomba. It’s a tone-setting scene early in the pilot episode (that’s as good as any I’ve seen in a while) that demonstrates one of the challenges for some of those on the spectrum: Navigating office politics.
As for Jack’s two roommates Violet (Sue Ann Pien) and Harrison (Albert Rutecki), they have their own challenges — some more severe, some less obvious — as they cope with real-world responsibilities and the social dynamics of relationships. As all three have known each other since kindergarten, there’s a comfort level they have with one another that leads to comedy, especially when it comes to their bluntness in discussing sex.
Amongst other things, the series paints a picture of how autism spectrum disorder, which affects roughly 75 million people, or one percent of the world’s population, also affects the people around them. The sympathetic picture is fleshed out by Mandy (Sosie Bacon), the empathetic live-in behavioral aide who tries to facilitate their interactions with each other and the neurotypical world — as well as her challenges of her own. For Jack, this becomes especially important when he finds out the grave news that his father, Lou (Joe Mantegna), is fighting an aggressive form of cancer.
It’s through Jack’s repartee with his dad that Glassman grants us access to the soul of his character. It’s a beautiful storyline that alternates between breaking your heart and making you want Jack to have breakthrough moments as he navigates the emotional differences of his disorder. And then when Jack starts dating one of his father’s nurses, Ewatomi (Délé Ogundiran), Glassman continues his excellent nuanced portrayal of something most of us don’t experience on a daily basis. Whether it’s his dad or his unorthodox courtship of Ewatomi, Jack’s sometimes raw expression of his emotions alternate between making us laugh and frustrating us. But his heart is in the right place, which gives us hope that he might just crush this whole adult thing after all.
Whereas As We See It explores a fresh blend of storylines rarely seen on TV or streaming, Glassman isn’t necessarily a new face to acting. The 37-year-old, LA-based standup comic has worked quite a bit over the past eight years — on mics, podcasts, and other TV series, too.
Many may remember him from his leading role in the NBC ensemble sitcom Undateable (2014-2016) — and if you don’t, here’s a clip that’s worth watching to see the range Glassman can play. There was also The Sixth Lead (2015), the five-ep docuseries Glassman wrote/directed as well as recurring roles in the way-too-short-lived FX series The Comedians (2015) with Josh Gad and Billy Crystal, and the Melissa McCarthy-produced series, Nobodies (2018). Glassman is also the creator and host of the weekly three-camera podcast “Take Your Shoes Off,” where he’s riffed with guests like Kristin Bell, Dax Shepherd, and Marc Maron while doing over 100 episodes.
Worth noting is that Glassman didn’t receive his autism diagnosis until five years ago so he initially had concern about “being a spokesperson for something he was still learning about” when it came to playing Jack. But they “let him do what he thought it was” — and that was a version of his own experience which is still relatively new. It’s all working so far, as season one looks like a success story as a critical hit and with a 100% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Where Glassman’s career goes from here will be interesting to watch.
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Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.