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“Front of the Class” is scheduled to air at 9 p.m./8 p.m. CST on December 7, 2008, on CBS as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series. Patricia Heaton, Treat Williams and Jimmy Wolk have been cast for the movie, which is being filmed in Shreveport, La. It is directed by Peter Werner. “While I was on set, Peter was definitely listening to my comments about how I handled different situations,” Cohen said. “He really wants it to be as authentic as possible.”
In the News
Brad Cohen '96 shares his thoughts on "Front of the Class" in a special video message. Watch>
By Justin Phelps ’05
Brad Cohen ’96 walked on the set of “Front of the Class,” the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame movie being created about his life. The crew was filming a scene in which Cohen’s mother went to a psychiatrist to determine what was happening to her son before they learned he had Tourette syndrome.
“When I walked in, everyone thought I was Jimmy Wolk, who is playing me as an adult,” Cohen said. “And then they quickly realized, ‘That’s not Jimmy, that’s the real Brad Cohen.’ So not only do we look alike, we sound alike. Then they realized that Jimmy has me down pat. They were amazed at how well Jimmy had done matching up the tics with my tics.”
Cohen was ridiculed in school by students, forced to apologize in front of the class by teachers for the tics and noises he made because of the disorder, and kicked out of a Peoria-area restaurant as a Bradley student.
Brad Cohen met President Joanne Glasser in August at a president’s alumni reception in Atlanta. “We’re proud of all of Brad’s accomplishments and his determination to become an enthusiastic well-respected educator,” President Glasser said. “The national exposure of Front of the Class is another avenue for Brad to share his wonderful story. The entire Bradley family looks forward to celebrating this exciting time with Brad.”
He authored Front of the Class to tell his story, and now it’s being turned into a made-for-TV movie to be aired Dec. 7, 2008, on CBS. Cohen has been most impressed with Hallmark Hall of Fame’s interest in keeping the authenticity of the story. “I originally said when this movie comes out, I’m not going to watch it because I was so nervous Hollywood would get the best of it and turn it into its own monster,” Cohen said. “But what has happened is Hallmark has been so unbelievably concerned about being respectful to my story, they want it as authentic as possible. They really have had me in on the conversations.”
Cohen has received phone calls from Wolk, who plays Cohen as a 22-year-old, and Dominic Scott Kay, who plays Cohen as a 12-year-old. The actors have asked Cohen about how he felt during trying times of his life. In addition, they’ve worked with a dialect coach to mimic Cohen’s mannerisms, tics and noises. “To see both of them living my life,” Cohen said, “it’s just that surreal moment of, ‘Whoa, this is really kind of weird.’ And at the same time, looking at it from a Tourette syndrome point of view, these actors have been working on learning me, the tics and noises, and they’ve really perfected it. These could be Emmy-award performances based on what they’re doing because it really is a challenge. I asked both of them, ‘At the end of the day, when you go back to your bed, are you fatigued or tired from doing all these tics?’ They both said were extremely tired. They really felt it in their neck because they’re twitching their neck a lot.”
“They’re hoping for 15 million people to watch this. It’s really a celebration of everyone who believed in me and stuck by my side when they could have turned away easily.” — Brad Cohen ’96
Cohen said the movie is a celebration for everyone who supported him throughout his life; however, he’s not sure he’s grasped just how far reaching this movie will be. “I told my wife I think this movie is bigger than I even know it’s going to be,” he said. “My only experience is when my book came out. Yeah, I was on “Oprah,” a huge experience with millions of people watching, but Oprah shared my story; Hallmark Hall of Fame is sharing my life. People are going to walk away really knowing me.”