BBC commissions ‘The Assembly’ based on the ‘The A Talks’ format
February 21, 2024

The Assembly sees a cast of around thirty-five interviewers who are self-identified autistic, neurodivergent or have learning disabilities, question an A-list celebrity for one extraordinary TV interview.   

A half-hour special of The Assembly to air on BBC and iPlayer on Friday 5 April, during Autism Acceptance week.

In this half-hour special, it’s multi-award-winning actor and director, Michael Sheen, who is to face the grilling of a lifetime from our unique collective: no subject is out of bounds, no question is off the table. Expect chaos, delight, revelation. Anything can happen. 

Michael Sheen said: “I was thrilled to be asked to be a guest on The Assembly. It’s such a fresh and exciting idea and I can’t wait for what I’m sure is going to be a surprising and challenging experience. I really don’t know what to expect, which is both exhilarating and a little bit terrifying.”

The format is an adaptation of French show Les Rencontres Du Papotin (a.k.a The A Talks), which launched in 2022 on France 2, quickly became their most watched unscripted show of the year and has already been adapted in Spain, Denmark or Poland. They saw the likes of Emmanuel Macron, Call My Agent’s Camille Cottin and Antonio Banderas, face neurodivergent journalists. Gone was the flattery and junket PR of the usual celeb fare; in its place, a mix of mischievous prodding, leftfield quizzing and profound exchanges. The mantra: ‘no filter’. The superstars left completely off guard: iconic actors asked about a driving ban or the death of a parent, the President asked if it’s really role model behaviour to marry one’s teacher.  

The show comes from Michelle Singer and Stu Richards’ Rockerdale Studios, creators of mischievous content which seeks to put disabled agency at its heart. Stu is also known for co-creating and writing BBC Three’s Jerk, and Rockerdale are most known for Channel 4’s Mission: Accessible.

Together with the BBC, Rockerdale has worked with national and local organisations across autistic and neurodivergent communities to ensure every element of the series works for and with neurodivergent voices.

Kalpna Patel-Knight, BBC’s Head of Entertainment Commissioning said ”The BBC is delighted to introduce viewers to The Assembly. It’s a feel-good stand out entertainment show unlike anything viewers have seen before.  Big thank you to Michael Sheen, for being game on to have a no holds barred interview with the superb interviewers who bring the show to life.

Executive Producers, Stu Richards and Michelle Singer said: “The Assembly has been the most remarkable project that most of us have ever worked on. And sure, it’s brilliant representation of a part of society we rarely see given agency on our screens but, far more than that, it’s also mischievous, funny, profound, and can turn from one to the other in a heartbeat.” Stu added, “when we saw the French version of the show it blew my head off, and it’s quite a large, cumbersome head so it really takes something impressive.” 

Matthieu Porte and Arnaud Renard, partners at CAN’T STOP media, said: “This commission by the most respected broadcaster in the world makes us very proud. The A Talks is truly a unique show. It is TV at its best and we have no doubt The Assembly will please British viewers as much as it does in the four countries where it is airing.”

The Assembly (1 x 30’) is a Rockerdale Studios production for BBC One and iPlayer based on The A Talks/Les Rencontres du Papotin format created from Kiosco TV and Quad TEN, distributed by CAN’T STOP media.

Commissioned by Head of Entertainment Commissioning, Kalpna Patel-Knight for BBC One and iPlayer. Led by Clodagh O’Donoghue as Commissioning Editor.

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