‘The V Word’ – Vinette Robinson In Conversation With FAULT Magazine


Vinette Robinson stars in upcoming BBC mini-series The A Word. A new BBC drama centered around the family of a 5-year-old boy with autism, characters must learn to communicate if they want Joe to follow suit. The series tackles the family drama and approaches a character with a developmental disability with fresh eyes and sensitivity. The six-part drama airs on BBC1, Tuesdays at 9pm.


Is autism the main focus of The A Word? What other themes are there?

It is about autism, that’s a very important part of it, but it is also a family drama. I think the main theme is about communication, and the gaps between what we want to say and what we’re able to say. The writer (Peter Bowker) has already spoken very eloquently about how he wanted to write about what appears to be a perfect family on the outside, they are comfortable and they are articulate and funny, but who still has problems communicating about some things as we all do. At the center of it there is a child who, by definition, can’t communicate, but that also reflects and reverberates throughout the family who have their own problems communicating with each other. Joe’s autism at the center of it is a catalyst to explore a lot of their relationships.


What was it about this story that made you want the role?

Pete, the writer, the way that he observes relationships and behavior. There are lots of beautiful humane moments. I also think that the way he approaches the subject is so beautiful because there is some levity there. It could quite easily be an issue based drama, but hopefully people will find it amusing and heartwarming and will be able to connect with these characters. I really love Pete as a writer anyway, so that’s why I wanted to do it. It’s also an important subject, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s quite nice to do something that’s different. There are loads of amazing procedural shows, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a really great family drama. I think there’s room for one.

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What are you expecting or hoping the response will be when The A Word airs?

Obviously a good one, but I hope people connect to the characters. Everyone has to deal with family, and the craziness of family life, so hopefully people will relate to that and really be able to identify with those characters. It would be lovely if it opens up a conversation about autism and other disabilities. It’s always good to open up a conversation.


Autistic characters have unfortunately sometimes been created as either “problems” that needs to be dealt with, or quirky geniuses. How does The A Word break that mold?

I think part of what Pete wanted to look at was hidden disabilities, so someone who isn’t at the extreme end of a spectrum. This is a story about one child, a single child with autism. It can never be a story about all people with autism, it just can’t be. Part of the question in the middle of it is, at what point in trying to address the autism do you want to stop Joe from being himself? Joe is fine as himself, he should be celebrated, but there are challenges with that as well. It’s about looking at a person, and not at an issue. I think that’s how it stops it from being like that, you can’t just peg an issue on a person. You have to see the person, and that’s part of who that person is, and it should be celebrated.

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Your character is called Nicola. How is she involved in the life of this boy, Joe, and his family?

She’s the outsider in a way because she’s part of this family by marriage. She’s a doctor, so she has some knowledge, but she’s not an expert. She’s done a pediatric rotation for three months so she has a bit of knowledge which probably allows her to see it. Being slightly removed and being a bit of an outsider allows you to see things more clearly, but when you’re in the midst of a family it’s hard to see. Obviously she cares a lot about this family, but her attachment isn’t the same as the parents, so she doesn’t have that same attitude that they do where they want it desperately not to be true. It’s hard, so they’re sort of burying their heads in the sand a little bit, but because she has a bit of distance she can see it.

Someone asked me today, they said they didn’t quite buy that, but I said that I absolutely believe it. When something matters to you so much and you love someone so much, there might be a niggle but you just don’t want to face it. Also, as it’s explored in the drama, once you pin a label on someone it’s there and that can have its own momentum. You just want to allow that child to grow and to be themselves, and not to confine them by such a huge label.

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The twitter account for The A Word has been posting introductory character descriptions. Nicola was described as “Professional, driven…and completely tactless.” Are those the same three words you’d choose?

Yeah, I would. It’s very important for Nicola to be honest. The conflict with her is that the reason she and her husband are moving back to the village is because she’s been very dishonest in the relationship. So honesty is what she’s tries, that’s the ideal that she wants to live up to that she’s failed at somewhat. She will always just say what she thinks, because she thinks that’s the best way to operate. Sometimes it’s not said in the most tactful way, so other people can find that a bit flinty and obviously that rubs some people in the wrong way. I don’t think she understands the effect she’s having. I think she just thinks if everyone was honest and said what they really thought, people would get along much easier. Of course, that leads to its own set of problems. I don’t think it’s not being honest; it’s more about not putting things gently. Nicola doesn’t always put things in the gentlest manner.


What is your fault?

Overthinking everything and procrastinating.


Photography: Jack Alexander
Styling: Kiera Liberati
Styling assistant: Rhys Marcus Jay
Make-up: Lauren Kay using Antipodes Skincare and RMS Cosmetics
Hair: Amidat Giwa using Wella EIMI Ocean Spritz and Wella EIMI Extra Volume 
Words: Courtney Farrell