Down's syndrome actor's message to special needs students

By Julian Fowler
South West Reporter, BBC News NI

media captionA Belfast actor with Down's syndrome has inspired young people with special needs

A Belfast actor with Down's syndrome has inspired young people with special needs after he appeared in a television drama earlier this year.

His character goes on a road trip with his sister Rosie, to the frustration of his very protective mum.

The film was shown at Willowbridge School in Enniskillen at a special screening with James and his dad Ivan.

Afterwards James explained how he memorised 58 pages of script and spent long hours on set, but said the experience "was good fun".

"If you can eat chocolate cake or drink coffee, you can act," James told the pupils.

"Don't let people say you can't act, because you can."

image captionJames met pupils, posed for photographs and signed autographs at Willowbridge School

'Incredible experience'

Since Ups and Downs, James has gone on to secure more acting work and will be appearing in four episodes of the network ITV and Netflix drama Marcella.

Ivan Martin said it has been an incredible experience for James.

"Anything he does he throws himself into it and the acting was no different.

"He's been very fortunate in that all the reviews have been very positive.

"He's enjoyed it, the audience have enjoyed it and the reaction on social media to us personally as a family has been incredible," Ivan said.

image captionJohn, a pupil at Willowbridge, wants to be an artist

James told BBC News NI he enjoyed visiting the school to talk to the pupils about his experiences.

He answered questions, posed for selfies and signed autographs.

"Meeting up with the kids and meeting up with a big fan was really good and making them feel that they are comfortable with it [Down's syndrome] too," he said.

'Can't describe the confidence'

One of the pupils, John, wants to be an artist.

"James told me that even though you have special needs you can still manage to do things," John said.

image captionSince Ups and Down, James has secured more acting work

Another pupil, Jack, who enjoys playing football, said James had given him a lot of confidence.

"Hopefully now I can just get better and quicker. I can't describe the confidence it's given me."

Ivan said: "Anyone who takes inspiration, we're delighted by that".

"When James was 18 months old there was a doctor with the bedside manner of Attila the Hun who said to me: 'You're going to have to accept that it's very likely James will never speak'.

"If you're watching, he speaks. In fact he never shuts up."

If you missed Ups and Downs, it is still available on the BBC iPlayer.

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