June 5, 2019

Naomi Rubin, 18
High School: Summit View
College: Cal State Northridge

In March 2018, Naomi Rubin finally got the call she’d been waiting for since fourth grade, when she first discovered acting. She still remembers exactly what she was doing in her family’s Van Nuys home. “I was doing homework and my parents just came into my room and told me the good news,” she told the Journal. “I just went back to doing my homework, but I was smiling internally.”

The good news? The casting department from the acclaimed Netflix show “Atypical” wanted to cast Rubin in its second season. It was the type of opportunity she was never sure would come her way. “It’s so hard to work in this business while you’re a student,” she said. “Plus, it’s just really competitive.”

Rubin also is autistic — but she doesn’t view autism as an obstacle in her acting career. After struggling with confidence issues in her younger years, she now views her autism as an advantage.

“I felt like I was labeled a lot growing up, but I’ve broken through that barrier. I don’t see [autism] as a barrier anymore,” she said. “I see it as a door to creativity. I feel emotion more intensely. That goes for empathy, which is a key part of acting and something that people often think that people on the spectrum don’t really have. I also have a great memory, which helps a lot with memorizing lines.”

Rubin doesn’t describe herself as particularly observant, but her foray into acting began in the halls of Jewish day school and on the grounds of Jewish summer camp. It started with school plays at Adat Ari El’s Early Childhood Center in Valley Village and talent shows at Camp Ramah in Ojai during summers.

“From a young age, I got to explore my Jewish identity through story and through art.” 

“From a young age, I got to explore my Jewish identity through story and through art,” she said. “Those places gave me chances to be onstage.”

Now, she’s a graduating senior at Summit View, a special-needs high school in the Valley. Balancing her studies and acting professionally has been a challenge. She shot a third-season episode of “Atypical” in April, was cast as the lead in a Disney Channel pilot that didn’t get picked up, and just performed in a musical at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. However, fitting in on a professional set was easy. 

“Instantly, I felt like I belonged there on set,” Rubin said. “It was like a dream come true. It was so surreal.”

Rubin plans to take a gap year to keep auditioning and working with her agent to secure more professional work before eventually studying theater at Cal State Northridge. As she prepares to take the plunge into full-time acting, chief among her goals is inspiring others like her.

“I think it’s really important that people on the spectrum see themselves on screen,” she said. “We really need more of that representation. I hope we get more of that in the future. I’ve also played people who aren’t on the spectrum. It’s really interesting to see the differences between the two, and I also want people who are on the spectrum to see that they’re able to do anything. I see autism as a sort of a superpower.”

Keep on reading about our 2019 Outstanding Seniors here.

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