Autism News

Autism Plays Big Role In New Movie

by Shaun Heasley, Disability Scoop | June 21, 2022

Vanessa Burghardt and Dakota Johnson in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” now streaming on Apple TV+. (Apple)

An actress with autism is making her debut alongside Dakota Johnson in a new feature film that’s out in theaters.

Vanessa Burghardt, who has autism, plays one of the main characters in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” which was released late last week.

The movie focuses on 22-year-old Andrew, a recent college graduate who’s back home with his family in New Jersey working as a party starter at bar and bat mitzvahs. He befriends a young mom, played by Johnson, and her teenage daughter who has autism.

Burghardt, working in her first professional acting role, portrays the daughter, Lola.

The disability advocacy group RespectAbility said it consulted on Burghardt’s role in the film.

“Cha Cha Real Smooth” originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where it won the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award.

The film is now playing in select theaters and streaming on Apple TV+.

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