"It feels like we can reach stardom" Ipswich support group praises Line of Duty for casting actor with Down's Syndrome


A support group for people with Down's Syndrome has praised the popular TV show, Line of Duty for casting an actor with the condition, saying that they want other shows to follow in their footsteps.

Tommy Jessop as Terry Boyle in BBC hit drama Line of Duty.

Project 21, runs a performing arts club for people with Down's Syndrome in Suffolk, Essex and Cambridge and have said that seeing actor Tommy Jessop, who has the genetic condition, play a lead role in a mainstream show has been an inspiration. 

Hayley says seeing actors with Down's Syndrome on TV makes her feel as if she can reach for the stars. Credit: ITV News Anglia

For passionate dancer Hayley, seeing Tommy on the most talked about show on TV is inspiring.

For me, people with Down's Syndrome out on telly, feels like we can reach for stardom. For me, watching them on the telly, that means I can reach that much higher as well, for me to get out there.

Hayley Roberts, Project 21 member 
Hayley, Amy and Polly are best friends. They love dancing together at Project 21 and going clubbing. Credit: ITV News Anglia

In Ipswich, the over 18s group is back together after the pandemic put their meetups online and now, having all had their second jab at the same time, they are able to dance together in person again.

A charity, Project 21 started three years ago as a way to give people with Down's Syndrome the opportunity to socialise and perform and to prove to people they're not be underestimated.

It's actually one of the best things that actually's ever happened to me.

Martha Evans, Project 21 member

Teenagers Martha Evans and Edward Wagland are both aspiring actors, and say that seeing someone on screen with the same genetic disorder they have is a big inspiration.

I would like to see more Downs Syndrome faces like on The Voice UK, chat shows and Britain's Got Talent.

Edward Wagland, Project 21 member
David enjoys playing the guitar and feels inspired by the show. Credit: ITV News Anglia

After his performance in Line of Duty, Tommy been spotted filming a Steven Spielberg film and with his career hitting Hollywood, it's hoped there will be a shift toward disability being seen more in cinema.  

Alex Munn founded Project 21 in 2018 when she found a need for clubs specifically catered for those with Down's Syndrome. Credit: ITV News Anglia

We're getting there, we're definitely getting there but they deserve to be in more and their talents as performers, they are really incredible, I'm not being biased because I believe in it. They have this talent and I think the more people that see that the more they'll believe in it. They have a lot to say you just have to listen.

Alex Munn, Founder, Project 21

Find out more about Project 21 here.