The Assembly: Michael Sheen grilled by 35 neurodivergent interviewers in BBC half-hour special produced by Rockerdale Studios

Date published: 07 May 2024

Thirty-five neurodivergent interviewers grilled A-list celebrity Michael Sheen in a special BBC One interview by Rockerdale Studios, an independent production company co-founded by Rochdale's Stu Richards.

Airing to celebrate Autism Acceptance Week, 'The Assembly' saw a cast of thirty-five interviewers aged 18-77 who are autistic, neurodivergent or learning disabled, question multi-award-winning actor and director, Michael Sheen.

The format is an adaptation of French show 'Les Rencontres Du Papotin', which saw the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Camille Cotin (Call My Agent) face the neurodivergent journalists of the Papotin.

With no topic off the table, the Good Omens star, 55, answered tough questions from musicians, artists, writers and students such as the age gap between himself and his partner, 30-year-old actor Anna Lundberg, what makes him cry, his opinion of the British Royal Family.

However, the Welsh actor was also asked some easier questions about his height, his favourite Disney film and his first-ever crush.

Mr Sheen said he was "very excited" before the 30-minute show because he "really had no idea what I was going to be asked."



He said: "I said yes to being a part of The Assembly because it was just such an extraordinary and interesting idea. Then reading about the original French series, it just sounded so extraordinary, different and potentially a very revealing way to approach the tried and tested interview process, but obviously it is a lot more than just being an interview.

"The interview part of it is just one aspect of the project and I think there is still a lot of confusion, ignorance and fear around people with any kind of difference. I think being able to be involved in a project like this could maybe break down some of those barriers."

Speaking before the show's airing, he added: "I was quite moved at times by seeing how much people had to struggle to overcome certain things they were dealing with in order to ask questions at times. That was uplifting. I think it will be different, it will be thought provoking I hope, and challenging in certain ways; challenging certain kinds of myths and stereotypes I think and ultimately just really entertaining and fun and joyful. I can’t really remember what I said, so I don’t know what people will learn about me... but it’s not about me, it’s about that fantastic group of people, but I certainly got a huge amount out of it too and I hope an audience will as well."


Michael Sheen
Photo: BBC/Rockerdale Studios


Rockerdale Studios, a disabled-led company that puts on- and off-screen disabled talent at the heart of its work, was founded in 2017 by CEO Stu Richards and COO Michelle Singer, who have made a name for themselves with their unique brand of mischievous and provocative comedy content.

Stu is also known for co-creating and writing the BBC Three comedy, Jerk, and Rockerdale is most known for Channel 4’s Mission: Accessible.

Working closely with the BBC’s Creative Diversity Team, Rockerdale Studios spent "a long time" working with a number of groups around the UK - and with "three superb organisations" in particular to select their cast.

Stu and Michelle said: "Building trust was essential and it was important to have the time for this to happen. It was satisfying to have built such a diverse team, too: many of our off-camera team self-identify as disabled or neurodivergent and it was important to us that the whole team felt a ‘broad church’. The filming process itself is the most straightforward part of the show and the amount of laughter and mischief in the room when Michael was there was exciting."

Stu added: “We wanted a big name [for the interview] and their personality was also important. You need charisma to draw people in and be able to deal with the edgier questions. Michael Sheen was that funny, intelligent, honest bloke who we felt would be the perfect guy.”

He said: “We wanted edginess in the show, provocativeness, but that question [about the age of Michael’s partner] was so early on in the shoot.

“We were watching in the gallery and thought, ‘what if he walks off, what if he hates that question’. That was terrifying. Anna was actually there in a different room, so it was double the nerves because we didn’t know how she would take it as well. 

“It resulted in a profound and emotional answer.”

When asked about the feedback received from the show, Stu said: “We’ve had a lot of neurodivergent people say, ‘Finally, a portrayal that is representative of all of the many sides’ [of neurodivergent people].

“We’ve also had responses from parents of neuro kids, because they’re used to seeing quite sad stuff, gentle piano music, so the response has been really positive.”

The Assembly is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 11 months.

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