The moment he read the script, Atypical‘s Keir Gilchrist was immediately drawn to his now-starring role on the Netflix series. But compared to projects he’s worked on in the past, this one was a “huge challenge.”
Gilchrist, 24, stars as Sam — an 18-year-old young man on the autistic spectrum — on the upcoming half-hour coming of age story. Releasing Aug. 11 on the streaming service, the eight-episode first season follows Sam as he wraps up his high school years and begins his journey to find love and independence.
“I was drawn to the role initially because of the pilot script. I usually try to let the script be the first thing that grabs my interest and Sam was so well written that I wanted to audition,” Gilchrist tells PEOPLE about what intrigued him.
“Sam is on spectrum and he’s about to finish high school and he decides that he would like to have a girlfriend for the first time,” Gilchrist explains in a PEOPLE exclusive featurette.
At one point during the first season Sam enters a pharmacy with a friend, where he inquires about using condoms and asks, “Can I try them on before I buy?” In another scene, while riding in the car, he confesses to his mother, “Mom, at some point, I really, really hope that I get to see boobs.”
Though Gilchrist did an extensive amount of research for the role, it did prove to be challenging for the actor.
“The role was a huge challenge compared to work I’ve done in the past, so I would say that was the most enjoyable/memorable part of playing Sam. Not only was it challenging to work as much as I did on this show, but also the role required a lot of energy and extra thought in every scene,” Gilchrist shares. “We constantly had to collaborate to make sure that what I was doing was true to what Sam would do.”
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To help navigate his preparation for the project, Atypical creator Robia Rashid gave Gilchrist a book — Journal of Best Practices — which proved to be “one of the most helpful things” for the actor in creating his character.
“The theme of Atypical is: no one’s normal. But Sam’s probably the most normal one of all of them,” Rashid says in the featurette. “This is a guy who’s just like all of us.”
“Atypical goes deep into the magical world of the mind of someone with autism,” Brigette Lundy-Paine, who plays Sam’s sister Casey, says and adds, “So much of the show is told from inside Sam’s head, so it’s this treasure trove of experiences.”
Atypical premieres Friday, Aug. 11 on Netflix.