Tommy Jessop opens up on working with Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington
Actor Tommy Jessop has appeared in Line Of Duty, in a feature-length film opposite Nicholas Hoult, onstage as the title character in Hamlet and in various documentaries.
Yet for an actor with Down syndrome the opportunities still seem few and far between. Which is why, with Will, his filmmaker brother, Tommy has decided to make his own movie – and is taking viewers along for the ride in this new documentary Tommy Jessop Goes To Hollywood .
“I always wanted to be a performer and it wasn’t that hard to get into the industry – I found it was a bit too easy. But it’s like a light switch, it goes on and off. Like a lift, it has its ups and downs,” says 38-year-old Tommy.
Will adds, “Our earliest photo of Tommy in costume is him as a very small boy dressed as a snowman. So it looks like the acting goes back pretty far.
“Tommy might say that entry into the industry wasn’t so hard, but I think we need to put that in the context of the fact that there was one role, and Tommy got it.
“Where for another actor you might expect that to lead to other roles, for Tommy, actually it didn’t for a while.”
The hour-long documentary sees Tommy on a mission to show that actors with Down syndrome can play superheroes. Tommy has appeared in high-profile TV shows, in Line Of Duty he played murder suspect Terry Boyle.
But now he wants to be a leading man. So he and Will set off on an epic creative journey to develop their own superhero movie and pitch it in Hollywood.
“I’ve watched countless superhero films in the past,” says Tommy. “And I think it’s about time someone with Down syndrome should play a superhero.”
Will is equally invested. “I’m really excited about bringing in people with Down syndrome and other disabilities,” he says. “I love the idea of open casting calls and auditions.”
The documentary shows Tommy cast as Roger the Superhero. And as the two develop their ideas into a screenplay, they reach out to some big Hollywood names, including Game Of Thrones star Kit Harington, who reads for the role of the villain.
“Kit was a really nice person to meet,” says Tommy. “And he did a really good job playing the bad guy.”
They also managed to secure an appearance from Will Sharpe, who plays Ethan in The White Lotus, and who worked with Tommy in Casualty in 2009.
“Tommy did a guest appearance on Casualty when Will was a regular and that’s how they know each other,” explains Will. “He’s not only in The White Lotus, he’s also a top writer and director and he’s got a BAFTA or two, so to get him on board was a real coup.”
Others taking part include scream queen Neve Campbell and her partner JJ Feild. However, there was another special appearance in the documentary – the brothers’ mum Jane, who has supported Tommy’s career from the start.
“When Tommy said he wanted to be an actor, there weren’t many opportunities for people with Down syndrome,” says Will. “So my mum, Tommy and some of his friends founded the Blue Apple Theatre company.”
Tommy reveals Jane has a history of being a surprise standout actress, adding, “Not only that, she’s also got the title of being my manager, make-up artist and caterer…”
“And costumes, stunt driver,” continues Will. “She was in Line Of Duty . When Terry’s having his happy ending, the support worker that gets him out of the car is our mum. She’s a real scene stealer, it’s a good thing we didn’t give her more of a role.”
Tommy has some other big names in mind for the film, too. “The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) playing my sidekick,” he says. “Or my mentor. And Barbie herself, Margot Robbie.”
The two are so determined to get their movie made, they flew to LA to pitch the idea to a major Hollywood director. It was also the first time Tommy and Will had been away together, just the two of them.
“I can’t believe it,” says Will. “It was our first time away together, without our parents, which seems crazy. So it was very special.” Tommy adds, “We should go away more often, but with no cameras.”
As for the screenplay, the brothers are still working on it and say they’ll keep people up to date with their progress.
“It’s going really well,” Will says. “We’re writing the screenplay now and we’ve got some very exciting people to share it with. Watch this space. Roger the Superhero will return.”
Watch Tommy Goes to Hollywood on Monday 21st August, 9pm, BBC One
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