Maddie Ziegler Defends Playing Character With Autism In Sia Movie

by : Cameron Frew on :
Maddie Ziegler Defends Playing Character With Autism In Sia Moviemaddieziegler/Instagram/Vertical Entertainment

Maddie Ziegler has defended her role as an autistic teenager in Sia’s Music movie. 

The movie attracted immediate controversy for its casting of Ziegler when the first trailer dropped last year, with many people accusing Sia of being ‘ableist’ by not casting an autistic person in the role.


Music follows a ‘newly sober woman (Kate Hudson) figuring out her place in the world when she learns she is to become the sole guardian of her half-sister, Music (Maddie Ziegler), a young girl on the autism spectrum’.

Sia MusicVertical Entertainment

The criticism has only increased with the film’s limited release, especially as it earned Golden Globe nominations. Ziegler and Sia are frequent collaborators, with the teen even describing her as ‘family’. Sia earlier said, ‘I can’t do a project without her. I don’t want to. I wouldn’t make art if it didn’t include her.’

While reluctant to comment on the backlash, Ziegler told The Independent, ‘I’ve actually stayed out of all of it just because, you know, I’m 18 years old and it’s a lot of pressure.’


However, she said, ‘I understand why people would want someone who’s actually on the spectrum with autism to play this character. But in terms of the dance sequences, I think that’s why Sia chose me to bring the dream world to life. It was all [made] with good intentions and with a good heart.’

Sia Music 2Vertical Entertainment

Ziegler added, ‘I felt so much responsibility. But I felt I was capable. I knew going into this that people were going to love or hate it.’

Sia, who consulted with Autism Speaks – an organisation criticised for exploitive practices and ableist views – on the movie, originally tried to defend Ziegler’s role.


She earlier tweeted, ‘I cast thirteen neuroatypical people, three trans folk, and not as f*cking prostitutes or drug addicts but as doctors, nurses and singers. F*cking sad nobody’s even seen the dang movie. My heart has always been in the right place.’

Sia TwitterSia/Twitter

However, shortly before deleting her Twitter, the singer appeared to concede, writing, ‘I promise, have been listening. The motion picture MUSIC will, moving forward, have this warning at the head of the movie.’

In a thread, she continued, ‘MUSIC in no way condones or recommends the use of restraint on autistic people. There are autistic occupational therapists that specialize in sensory processing who can be consulted to explain safe ways to provide proprioceptive, deep-pressure feedback to help w meltdown safety.’


Sia added, ‘I plan to remove the restraint scenes from all future printings. I listened to the wrong people and that is my responsibility, my research was clearly not thorough, not wide enough… I’m sorry.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Film and TV, Autism, Music, Now, Sia


The Independent
  1. The Independent

    Maddie Ziegler: ‘I knew that people were going to love Music or hate it’