It’s been quite a journey from Belfast to Beverly Hills for Northern Ireland actor James Martin, the first person with Down syndrome to win an Academy Award.
“It doesn’t matter if you have Down syndrome, as long as you’re doing what you do,” he told the BBC after collecting his Oscar. I do what I can to be funny.”
Stage Beyond is a big James Martin fan and our members were among the first people to congratulate him after the film he starred in, ‘An Irish Goodbye’, won Best Live Action Short Film at the Oscars 2023.
As well as recording our own video messages complete with a replica of the famous statuette (until we get our hands on the real Mc Coy), BBC Radio Foyle asked some of our members for their views on the big story which aired on the Breakfast Show on March 14th.
“Amazing, a young man from Northern Ireland getting an Oscar for a movie, that is big news… You can make it anywhere so if you want to win an Oscar, make a movie and show it and you might win an Oscar. You don’t have to be well read, or if you have a disability you can still win an Oscar as he shows.”
“I think it’s amazing to see somebody with a disability get an Oscar because not only is it shining a light on disabilities in Northern Ireland, it’s proven that although we do it differently because of our disabilities, and maybe put different spins on stuff…..yes we can do it just as well as any of the big actors that are out there, we’re just as capable if you give us a chance which James has proved with this Oscar.”
Asked, ‘Do you ever get frustrated when you watch films and not seeing you and your life represented?’ Bernadette responded: “It actually can get a wee bit frustrating, because I remember somebody asked me what’s your biggest fear when you go on stage with Stage Beyond? I said it’s mostly not because of the chair because you can hit any obstacle but if you’re watching a pantomime or a film you very rarely see, I cannot name one pantomime where I’ve seen somebody in a wheelchair. I’m hoping that if somebody is in a wheelchair in the audience that me being in one can prove to them that actually it doesn’t hold you back. Yes, you can still do stuff, alright differently, but you can still take part in different stuff and just enjoy it, have fun doing it, you can still do it even though you’re in a wheelchair.”
Bernadette makes no secret of the fact she loves performing whether on stage or screen. “I love it and I actually got quite a big part in our recent production ‘The Great Dictator’ as Dr Who and hopefully one of many such parts. I am hoping that it will lead to bigger roles in the future, most of us will probably hopefully land in Los Angeles at some point with Stage Beyond,” she added.
“I was happy for him, glad for him, the film was fantastic, I seen it last night. I hope for people to catch on what James, us, do by our lifetime.”
“I thought it was really good, fair play to him, he deserved it. Anything is possible if you just believe.” So what would Catherine say if she gets to meet superstar James? “Congratulations big lad!”