By Jon Evans | May 28, 2021 at 5:30 AM EDT – Updated May 28 at 6:17 AM
Set in North Carolina in 1993 as the state experiences a historic drought, the movie follows the story of Carl, a teenager with autism who is fascinated by the weather and predicts that a storm will soon hit nearby. His sister Sam develops a plan to help him chase the storm, which includes stealing their mother’s ice cream truck to begin a road trip about family, forgiveness, and following your dreams. Owen, who is on the autism spectrum, plays Carl in his movie debut, while Drew is cast as family friend Lucas, who goes along on the adventure.
“I thought it was an incredible experience, and of course Drew being there really helped,” Owen said. “When the opportunity came up, I was like ‘Maybe I should look into it’. Drew gave me the script and told me about it. I thought it was real interesting and I liked the story and the powerful message about acceptance and everything. I felt like there were great people behind this, and I felt good going in. I learned a lot from the experience of course.”
Drew, who is 23, has several years of experience in movies and episodic television, including recent roles in Mare of Easttown, which stars Kate Winslett, and NCIS: New Orleans, where he played opposite veteran actor Scott Bakula in several scenes. Drew knew the two filmmakers behind Drought, Hannah Black and Megan Petersen, from taking classes at Actor’s Arsenal Studio in Wilmington, and expressed an interest to them about wanting to be part of the project.
“It was so fantastic to have one of my best friends to be on the set with, to get to just work with in general, that was so amazing,” Drew said about working with Owen. “For Hannah and Megan to give me the gift because, at the time, that was the biggest, most full dimensional character I’d gotten to play, so I was also nervous like “I’ve never done something like this!’, so I had Owen to lean on there. Owen’s first time on a movie set, so he got to lean on me. It was great having someone that I was that close to, to get to work on this project, to talk it out and work through it. Now we have this awesome, we say it’s like a home movie we could ever ask for.”
Black and Petersen said their top priority for the film was finding someone on the autism spectrum to play the role of Carl. They did a nationwide casting call, and their top choice for the part happened to live in Wilmington. Owen, who recently finished his sophomore year at UNCW, says the confidence the filmmakers showed by casting him as Carl helped him on and off-screen.
“I think their decision to cast an autistic person was really important to get good representation in the film,” Owen says. “I think being in the role and being involved I brought some authenticity to the part. Initially going in I really wasn’t open about me being autistic and didn’t know about it for too long at that point.”
“I think Carl has pretty much lived with autism his whole life and is, I think, a little bit more familiar with it in some ways,” Owen added. “I have too, but not that I knew about. I think it kind of helped me be more accepting to myself. I was quiet about it before that, I really didn’t know how to deal with it. But now, it definitely helped, the whole experience, helped me be more accepting for myself.”
The film has received many positive reviews. But one writer spotlighted Owen’s debut performance in his recap. Richard Propes, writing for The Independent Critic, said, “The film’s real revelation is Owen Scheid, a young actor with autism making his feature film debut with a performance that brings together a realistic portrayal of his living with autism with a realistic portrayal of his living. Scheid is an absolute hoot here, an occasional one-liner revealing an instinctive comedic gift and his unique bond with Sam and those who join him on an adventure something very awesome to watch.” When I asked Owen about Propes’ positive feedback, it brought some interesting by-play between the sibling actors.
“Oh well, kind of embarrassed I’d say,” Owen said as Drew chuckled. “I feel like sometimes ‘Am I really that good?’
“Your feelings are very valid,” Drew said to his brother. “When someone is like ‘You’re very good at this!’, it’s hard to say, ‘I agree with you!’”
“It’s kind of how it made me feel, since it is my first thing,” Owen replied back to Drew. “Why should I have all this praise on the first time? Kind of being put on a mantle. Why should I be up there when you (Drew) have a little more experience?”
“That happens,” Drew responded. “On the first one. Boom!”
Drew’s acting roles have continued to grow since he played ‘sweaty teen boy’ and ‘drunk boy #2’ in the second season (2017) of the popular Netflix series Stranger Things. Along with Drought, he landed parts in Words on Bathroom Walls and Halloween, which also shot in Wilmington. He says getting the opportunity this year to play Connor Davenport, the son of Bakula’s character Dwayne Pride in NCIS: New Orleans, is another chance for him to learn and grow as an actor.
“There were a lot of great days on the Mare of Easttown set,” Drew remembered. “But there’s one day especially that’s in a later episode where I got to watch Kate Winslett (Mare Sheehan) and Angourie Rice (Siobhan Sheehan) do a scene together. I got to spend an entire day watching them do a scene, and it was like a master class in acting. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was a very emotional scene, and just getting to watch that things start clicking like ‘Oh, you’re doing that because of that!’ and ‘Oh, look at how she was preparing before she walked on, once they call ‘cut’ she still stays in it for minutes, as long she needs to’. Getting to watch that is just fantastic!”
Drew is continuing to audition for roles, and Owen, who is enrolled in the film program at UNCW, says he would like to continue with acting if the opportunity arises. I hope you enjoy the interview with these two talented brothers as much as I did. In the next episode, we’ll continue discussing Drought with the two filmmakers, Hannah Black and Megan Petersen, and hear how they took the project from concept to finished product.
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