A young girl with down syndrome and her mother share their experience on the set of The Jerk Theory.
“Who are you?” was the question I asked Catrine McGregor in reply to her email. I was trying to protect my family, but you can imagine my embarrassment when I Googled her name. Catrine had contacted the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation (UDSF), for which I was the current state president, looking for girls with Down syndrome, ages 7-12, who might be interested in playing the part of Kate in a film called The Jerk Theory. That is not a request we get every day.
I sent out the information statewide, searching for the perfect star and kept in contact with Catrine. I asked her if, on the day of auditions, I could come and take pictures. What I didn’t tell her was that I was going to bring my daughter, Lily, to the audition. I didn’t want anyone to think I wanted any special treatment.
The big day arrived and we had been practicing. The only problem was that Lily has three brothers and not one of them is named Adam, which was the name of the brother in the movie. She wasn’t about to hug this guy that wasn’t her brother. When we got to the place where they were holding auditions, Catrine’s son, Julien, was there helping. Catrine had not yet arrived, so we introduced ourselves and asked if it would be all right for Lily to audition. He told me where to sign her in and then we had a seat. We started practicing the lines again. “I don’t have a brother named ‘Adam!’ My brother is Tim!” “It’s pretend Lily, and you’re going to give that boy in there a big hug.” All of a sudden, Lily was running down the hall at full speed! ‘Oh no!’ I thought, ‘What is she going to do?’ She went right into the room where Julien was and gave him a big hug. Now if she would just do that during auditions, we’d be golden!
That first day, they just talked to Lily and asked us to come to callbacks—now it was getting real and exciting! We went back the second time and the room was full. Writer Abe Taylor; producers Brandon Peterson, Jonathan Rudd and Ryan Rudd; director Scott Anderson; and Catrine were all there. Scott wanted Lily to get up, yell for Adam and run and jump into Jonathan’s arms. Lily thought I could do a better job and tried to get me to run and jump into his arms. Luckily for Jonathan, Scott convinced Lily to do it.
Watch part of Lily’s audition here!
Then we waited—it seemed like forever. A few days later, Catrine called early in the morning and said Scott wanted to see Lily one more time. Whoopee! Lily’s a star!
Day One was very long! The problem was that our power went out, and no power equals wet hair. We weren’t looking too great when we arrived. We waited and we waited and we waited some more. It was very hard to keep a little girl “quiet on the set” for such a long time. We did bring Lily’s real brother, Tim, along to help entertain her. Craft services also had little oranges that Lily ate plenty of, as well as Diet Coke. We met Josh Henderson, who played the part of Adam. Lily immediately took a liking to him and called him a ‘stinker.’ Oh, those first impressions!
Finally, after being there for hours, it was Lily’s turn. Something they don’t tell you—at least they didn’t tell us—is that they change the script whenever they feel like it. (Editor’s Note: Rewrites will occur throughout the filming of a movie.) All the lines we practiced were gone! Did they forget that Lily has Down syndrome? However, I should never have doubted my daughter‘s ability. She did great!
An ear infection accompanied us on Lily’s second day of filming. It helped that there were other kids there and a table where she could color. The day was filled with stars! We met Jenna Dewan Tatum (Step Up, Earth Made of Glass), Tom Arnold (True Lies, Roseanne) and Danny Bonaduce (The Partridge Family). Jenna is a sweetheart; on the day this article was written we got pictures in the mail from Jenna and her husband, Channing Tatum. Because Tom Arnold played a priest in The Jerk Theory, Lily still calls Tom ‘Father Tom’ when she sees his picture. Day Two of filming was spent inside a classroom where Jenna, who played Molly, was teaching an art class. Craft services had goldfish crackers, which was a good choice, but they expected the kids to drink juice boxes. Lily doesn’t do juice boxes, she does Diet Coke.
Thanksgiving Point was the setting for the third and final day of filming. That was a fun day filled with lots of kids, animals, riding horses and running through the dinosaur museum. This is what Lily wrote on her blog, Lily’s Life is Great! about the third day of filming: On Monday, I filmed at Thanksgiving Point, in the petting zoo and at the dinosaur museum. I liked it because I love animals. One of the animals was really funny looking. I filmed with all my new friends, Yolanda, Josh and Jenna. I pretended that I was on a field trip. Some of us got to ride the horses. The horse tripped. I said “I hate this horse,” but I really don’t. They put “I hate this horse” in the movie, even though it wasn’t written down. I had fun with my friends. I played on the computer during the breaks. There were mice in with the animals! There were chickens, sheep, horses, cows and a donkey. The donkey made lots of noise! That’s it!
What a fun experience this was for Lily. Her audition tapes are on YouTube, and because of that attitude, TV of New Zealand did a wonderful interview with her. She has also done an IEP training video for the education system. We are looking forward to seeing The Jerk Theory. I don’t think Lily realizes that she will actually be in the movie. She just knows she’s a ‘star!’
Written by Susie Smith
More information about Down Syndrome from the National Down Syndrome Society:
“In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes. Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21. This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm – although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.”
Other Down Syndrome Actors:
Lauren Potter, Glee
Luke Zimmerman, The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Chris Burke, Life Goes On, Mona Lisa Smile
Tommy Jessop, Hamlet
Jamie Brewer, American Horror Story: Coven
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Last modified: August 12, 2017