From coaching kids’ football to the Academy Awards red carpet in Los Angeles, actor James Martin takes it all in his stride.
Speaking to Scotland4kids’ Laura Barr, on World Down Syndrome Day, James said it was ‘such an honour’ to have been awarded an Oscar. The actor has also recently become a Guinness World Records title holder due to his inspirational win.
James is the first person with Down Syndrome to win at the Academy Awards, an incredible achievement which he is of course still on cloud nine from.
‘An Irish Goodbye’ scooped best live action short film at the 95th Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in LA.
Described as the “beating heart of the film” by co-director, Ross White, James celebrated his 31st birthday in style last Sunday (12 March) receiving a star-studded happy birthday sing-along while collecting the Oscar.
Chatting about the film’s momentous win, James said: “It means everything to me because an Oscar is as good as it gets in the acting profession.
“It was a brilliant night especially when the whole audience sang happy birthday to me. What a moment!”
James, who plays estranged brother Lorcan in the 23-minute short explained that he has been doing drama classes for 17 years with Babosh, a drama group for adults with learning disabilities before moving on to professional drama seven years ago.
As well as an exciting acting career, James finds time to be an ambassador for Northern Ireland’s learning disability charity, Mencap, partakes in community park runs with The Falcons and holds down two jobs as a barista in Starbucks and at Scalini restaurant in south Belfast.
And if that wasn’t enough, James has been volunteering as a football coach for young people with Down Syndrome at Hanwood Down Syndrome Football.
The sessions cater for children aged 5 – 12 years to develop football skills in a fun and safe environment and to make new friends.
Manager of Hanwood Down Syndrome Football, Norman Kelly said: “From day one, when we opened just over a year ago, James has been an integral part of the club. He thoroughly enjoys coming to help at our Friday sessions when he can, and the kids just absolutely love him.
“James is an absolute inspiration to these kids and was so, even before the Oscar win. He is always the first to demonstrate at the coaching sessions and is always actively involved with a smile on his face. We are all so proud of him.”
James added: “Like me, they love their football and Norman Kelly the manager takes the training and then volunteers such as myself assist Norman with the routines.
Lastly, James offered some spirited advice to any aspiring young actors with disabilities to ‘go and talk to your parents’.
“Find a local drama group close by, try it, see if you like it and take it from there.
“So, get out there, give it a go and follow your dreams!”