Article below written by Jeryl Brunner for Parade.com:
Cole Sibus is a performer who was born with Down syndrome. He is also unstoppable. In 2014, he competed in the National Special Olympics at Princeton University and took home three medals, including the gold. He regularly water skis, plays softball, strums the guitar and hosts his own self-produced You Tube channel cooking show with his older sister Lauren.
If that’s not enough, Sibus was featured on two seasons in A&E’s Born This Way and recently began training with the goal to become the first Calvin Klein underwear model with Down syndrome. As he recently turned 21, his birthday wish was to meet Luke Bryan.
What juices him most? His role in the new film Spare Room, in which he stars with Skyler Samuels (The Gifted, Scream Queens) as they play brother and sister coping on their own. Sibus plays Arrow, a Johnny Cash-loving teen with Down syndrome. He really hopes to get the girl. His sister, whose husband died while serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan, is trying to keep the family together.
In fact, the role of Arrow was the most important puzzle piece to bring the story to life. “We didn’t want to find an actor who could play someone with Down syndrome,” says Spare Room’s writer and producer Laura Heine. “Cole more than delivered. His charisma and natural instincts steal the film, in a performance that has never before been seen on screen.” To find Cole, superstar casting directors Mary Vernieu and Raylin Sabo of Betty Mae Casting launched a national search. Vernieu also produced the film.
The tricky part was finding the perfect boy who looked the right age, resembled Samuels and most importantly could handle the material and pace of the shoot. But director Jenica Bergere wasn’t daunted by the challenge. Always game, she wrote, starred in and made her directorial debut in Come Simi now on Hulu. Not only did the film win awards, it was made for an unheard of $10,000. It even featured her daughter’s live birth in a scene on camera. So Bergere knows how to multitask.
Spare Room had a $300,000 budget, considered tiny in Hollywood. The breakneck and unbelievably brisk 10-day shooting schedule left no room for error. To prepare, Sibus worked with Bergere and his co-star Samuels for several days before principal photography. Their aim was to cultivate the brother/sister relationship. “That was key for the believability of the film,” said Samuels about Sibus. “The first day we met Cole hugged me and said “I’m Cole. I want to be in this movie with you!” They instantly bonded and have stayed in close touch since filming.
Veteran producer, James Portolese, who has produced over 45 films (including All Stars and Beast of Burden) was nervous about how demanding the schedule would be. He was especially concerned about placing too much pressure on Sibus. But he shouldn’t have worried. “I ended up being astounded by Cole’s professionalism and ability to improvise. He worked so hard to master the material and was also able to improvise and preserve the intent of a scene if the words escaped him,” says Portolese. “At the end of the day, Arrow is the heart of the film, and Cole was the heart of our set,” adds Bergere. “He is nothing short of a breakout star!”