Kayla Cromer

Freeform’s Everything’s Gonna Be Okay Actress & Activist

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Kayla is a breakout star who’s making history for the neurodiverse community. As Matilda on Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, she’s the first actor on the autism spectrum to play a lead role on TV.

Having an autistic character played by someone on the spectrum is just huge. And they waited for that for so long. I'll get parents dm'ing me saying, they've shown clips of the show to their child on the spectrum and how much joy that they see fill their kids' eyes. It always makes me tear up, how much I'm affecting people positively with my character, my career, and myself and how I'm being an advocate.

Kayla sitting at a piano.

The most personal scene in Everything's Gonna Be Okay is definitely the eulogy in the pilot episode because I did my grandma's eulogy, my Grandma Shirley, when she passed away. I wanted to incorporate humor into the eulogy for Matilda's dad because sometimes humor is the best medicine in a moment of sadness or tragedy to just lift people's spirits up.

Authentic Representation. Growing up, women with disabilities, especially in autism, were very rarely represented on screen. My earliest memory of a project was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, with Leonardo DiCaprio. He gave an amazing performance, but still, he isn’t on the spectrum. And then more TV shows started coming out with just male characters. So I was missing the female aspect that I wanted to see. And so did millions of viewers.

An image of Kayla on set.

If I could give advice to someone with a disability, it would be to accept your difference, embrace it. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need — whether it’s accommodations or if you just need help by any means. Accepting your disability is never easy, but having a good support system in place always helps. For me, once I embraced it, once I accepted that it’s going to always be a part of my life, it just changed my perceptions of things of, “You know, my brain just thinks differently. That’s all it is, I’m still a person and everything is just going to come together.” I’m not going to guarantee it’s going to be easy because most of the time it’s not, it can take a long time, but everything’s going to be okay.

Kayla sitting at a piano.

The most personal scene in Everything's Gonna Be Okay is definitely the eulogy in the pilot episode because I did my grandma's eulogy, my Grandma Shirley, when she passed away. I wanted to incorporate humor into the eulogy for Matilda's dad because sometimes humor is the best medicine in a moment of sadness or tragedy to just lift people's spirits up.

Authentic Representation. Growing up, women with disabilities, especially in autism, were very rarely represented on screen. My earliest memory of a project was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, with Leonardo DiCaprio. He gave an amazing performance, but still, he isn’t on the spectrum. And then more TV shows started coming out with just male characters. So I was missing the female aspect that I wanted to see. And so did millions of viewers.

Reimagined tomorrow is a world where there’s no stigmas, there’s no labels, we’re all one. We all look the same on the inside. We might be different up here, we might be different somewhere physically, mentally or emotionally, but everyone should realize that, in the end, what matters is that we’re all human.