‘Love on the Spectrum’ star Connor Tomlinson raising autism awareness

Cumming native selling T-shirts presenting positive messages, with proceeds benefitting metro agencies
Cumming native Connor Tomlinson appeared on season two of Netflix's Emmy Award-winning docuseries "Love on the Spectrum." Now, he's using his raised profile to raise funds for two metro Atlanta autism support organizations.
(Courtesy of Sarah E Photography)

Credit: Sarah E Photography

Credit: Sarah E Photography

Cumming native Connor Tomlinson appeared on season two of Netflix's Emmy Award-winning docuseries "Love on the Spectrum." Now, he's using his raised profile to raise funds for two metro Atlanta autism support organizations. (Courtesy of Sarah E Photography)

Connor Tomlinson is proud of who he is and wants all people with autism to feel the same, which is why he’s launching a campaign in support of Autism Awareness Month. Through April 30, 100 percent of proceeds for two T-shirt designs on Tomlinson’s website will be donated to Spectrum Autism Support Center in Duluth, as well as the Forsyth County campus of Creative Enterprises, a training and employment community rehabilitation program for people with disabilities.

Tomlinson, a Cumming native, recently came to prominence in Netflix’s Emmy-winning “Love on the Spectrum,” a docuseries that follows people on the autism spectrum who are looking for love and navigating the world of dating and relationships.

When Jack Tomlinson, Connor’s younger brother, watched the first season of the show in 2022, he felt sure Connor would make a perfect participant.

“I tweeted Cian O’Clery, the director, and thought there was no way he’d ever answer me,” said Jack, 19. “Six months later he responded and told me to have my mom reach out.”

After a series of Zoom calls with producers in Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles, O’Clery asked to visit the family’s home.

“That’s when we took a pause,” said Tomlinson’s mom, Lise Smith. “We never imagined it’d really happen, but when Cian wanted to come out, we realized this might really happen. We talked with Connor, of course, and we talked to his dad, and all of Connor’s siblings. We knew this would put Connor and the rest of us on a global stage. We have a big, blended family and we wanted everyone to be OK with it. Ultimately, it was up to Connor, and he wanted to go for it.”

After appearing in season two of Netflix's "Love on the Spectrum," Connor Tomlinson (center) appeared in the finale of "A Beautiful Noise" on Broadway.
(Courtesy of Lise Smith)

Credit: Lise Smith

icon to expand image

Credit: Lise Smith

A week after visiting the family, O’Clery invited Tomlinson to be on the show. Smith said her oldest son celebrated with a dance, kind of like an Irish jig. But Tomlinson, a history buff, quickly corrected her.

“It was a Russian Kazotsky,” he said.

Tomlinson, 25, loves movies and watches Netflix often, but never imagined starring in a show.

“Not in a million years did I think I’d be on TV, but it was good,” he said. “It made me nervous and happy at the same time.”

Tomlinson and his family were filmed from February to May 2023. He adjusted well to the cameras and appreciated O’Clery’s support throughout the process, especially when he had a panic attack during a speed dating event.

“Netflix is extraordinarily responsible,” said Smith. “Connor had a psych evaluation, there was psych support, and even social media training. All the people he met during dates had background checks, and support was always there during the show and even after the show dropped.”

In the first episode, Tomlinson explained that he felt left out as he watched all his siblings with their significant others and said he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life alone. Tomlinson had lots of friends at West Forsyth High School and refers to that time as the best four years of his life. Since graduating, however, he doesn’t do much with friends. But he stays busy with his job at Kroger where he bags groceries, retrieves shopping carts from the parking lot and sweeps floors. He also observes people.

“I see a lot of families and couples and think it sure seems great,” he said. “Sometimes a guy gets lonely.”

Tomlinson doesn’t currently have a girlfriend, but he had some successful dates on the show. He said he grew as a person and is proud of himself for taking a big step. The response from friends, family and fans has also been positive. He is recognized in public wherever he goes, from restaurants to airports, and often at work.

Connor Tomlinson is now recognized wherever he goes, from restaurants to airports and especially at his job at Kroger.
(Courtesy of Sarah E Photography)

Credit: Sarah E Photography

icon to expand image

Credit: Sarah E Photography

“Kroger has a policy so I can’t take pictures or selfies with anyone, but people always say hi, and I like that,” he said. “Everyone has been nice, and it feels pretty good when I get recognized.”

Tomlinson was recently invited to New York by Amber Ardolino, a principal player in Broadway’s “A Beautiful Noise,” the Neil Diamond musical. Not only did he get to watch the show, but he was also invited to join the cast on stage to sing “Sweet Caroline” during the finale.

“At intermission I was so nervous, I was keeled over and shaking,” he said, his dark eyes big and round. “I told my mom I wanted to run and put as much distance between myself and the theater as possible.”

But Tomlinson didn’t run. He took deep breaths and when he went on stage, he raised his fist in the air, causing a ripple of emphatic applause and happy tears throughout the audience.

“Everyone was crying,” said Smith. “And I was just so proud. I’m always so proud of Connor.”

While his social media following grows by the day (he has 317,000 Instagram followers at @ConnorTomlinson5), and business opportunities emerge, he has a big goal on his mind.

“One day I hope I’ll be able to raise enough money to have a guest house in our backyard to escape the stresses and pressures of life,” said Tomlinson, who lives with his mom and stepdad. “I have a lot of cool stuff in my room, but not a lot of space. I want a hobby room and a library, like an old English library. I want bookshelves with a rolling ladder, and I need a place with two leather recliners facing the TV, one for me and one for my dog Coco.”

Tomlinson is open to returning to “Love on the Spectrum” for season three, if offered. He said the show does a great job of representing the autistic community and he hopes to continue the effort through his Autism Awareness shirts. One sports the message, “Be kind to different minds,” and the other says, “This is who I am, and I like it,” a message that resonates with Tomlinson.

“Autism is what makes me different and unique,” he said. “I’m proud of who I am. I hope people see me and know nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.”


To purchase a shirt in honor of Autism Awareness Month, visit Connor.meteor.land