Tom Holland has been cast in Apple’s new anthology, The Crowded Room. The series, written and produced by Akiva Goldsman, will focus on real-life stories of those living with mental illness.
The show’s first season will be based on the Daniel Keyes biography “The Minds of Billy Milligan.” Milligan was acquitted of the rape and robbery of three women on the Ohio State University campus after psychologist Dorothy Turner diagnosed him with Disassociative Identity Disorder. After being diagnosed with having 24 personalities, he was released from the Ohio mental health system in 1991 before dying of cancer in 2014. Holland will portray Milligan in the series.
This new role comes after Holland portrayed a PTSD-stricken Army veteran in Joe and Anthony Russo’s Apple film Cherry. Despite the movie being described as “an overwrought chronicle of American decay,” Holland’s performance has been praised for its earnestness and realism.
As far as his web-slinging future holds, Holland had told Collider’s Steve Weintraub in February that the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home was his last film under his current contract. However, he does remain open to returning as Spider-Man in the future. With the end of his contract quickly approaching, Holland looks to be reinventing himself as an actor with more challenging roles such as this.
Goldsman’s involvement in the series is also interesting, as the writer has previously helmed the 2001 Academy Award-winning film A Beautiful Mind. During the film’s awards season run, the National Alliance on Mental Health praised the movie for its depiction of schizophrenia.
“Our members are the movie’s toughest critics,” said NAMI executive director Richard C. Birkel, Ph.D., in the 2002 statement. However, he went on to praise the film, saying, “A Beautiful Mind is a breakthrough of historic proportions. It is authentic.” Birkel continued to say that, “although John Nash’s story has been fictionalized, with some edges smoothed over, the essential portrayal is realistic. For our community, it hits home.”
Goldman’s treatment of the Milligan case and Disassociative Identity Disorder in The Crowded Room remains to be seen. While recent depictions in movies such as Split aimed to undo problematic cliches with sympathetic portrayals, they arguably still fall into exploitative trappings by ultimately villainizing the afflicted. Hopefully, both Goldsman and Holland will deliver an authentic view of the disorder that avoids this.
The Crowded Room is expected to begin production sometime this year, and will premiere on Apple TV+.