Tommy Jessop Goes to Hollywood: A talented and driven role model – why won’t anyone give him a job?

Television: As Jessop pushes for greater representation, the feelgood quality of this show continues to the end

After starring in Line of Duty, Tommy Jessop hoped casting directors would beat a path to his door. Instead, the phone has gone quiet. That silence is disappointing on a professional level – but a personal one too, we discover in the defiant and heart-warming Tommy Jessop Goes to Hollywood (BBC One, Monday, 9pm).

As a rare actor with Down syndrome, Jessop has been fighting for greater representation for disabled people on the screen. He’s talented, driven and a fantastic role model – why won’t anyone give him a job?

Jessop and his family are understandably frustrated. But they are also determined to progress Jessop’s career with or without the help of the industry. And so, accompanied by his brother Will, Jessop sets off to make a superhero movie. He will play Steve, who can slow time and infiltrate people’s thoughts.

The premise is at least as promising as the atrocious new Blue Beetle film, and the brothers are highly motivated. Along the way, moreover, they are aided by some big names.


Will Sharpe, the director and actor last seen in White Lotus, advises Jessop to chase his dream. And when Jessop tweets some of his favourite actors to request their help, Kit Harington replies and meets for a pep talk. He reveals his cousin Laurent also has Down syndrome and reads from Jessop’s treatment for the part of the villain Noel Scum.

“Tommy has proved himself,” Will says. “He wouldn’t have been offered parts such as [Line of Duty’s] Terry Boyle if he didn’t have the ability. We just want him and others with Down’s to have the same opportunities as other actors.”

To his credit, Will doesn’t gloss over the challenges his brother faces as he negotiates prejudices against people with Down syndrome. Their mother, Jane, meanwhile grows emotional as she recalls doctors telling her that young Tommy would never “read, speak or do anything very much”.

The fight for greater visibility for people with Down syndrome is, in many ways, only beginning. We are only now seeing actors with the condition because, for decades, people such as her son were locked away and forgotten, she says.

The painful irony is that this change is happening as fewer people with Down syndrome are born because the condition is now identifiable in the womb, and mothers can opt for a termination. “It’s sad to think they could be the last generation,” Jane says.

Still, the film’s optimism ultimately wins out. How great to have A-listers such as Harington and the Scream actor Neve Campbell support Jessop as he flies to Los Angeles for a meeting with a producer.

The feelgood quality continues to the end, as Jessop passionately pitches his idea and a producer nods his approval and asks for the script. Now all the brothers have to do is write one. If and when they do, you can bet it will have more heart and soul than so much of the stodge that reaches the multiplex.