Tommy Jessop, the British actor who most recently starred in the BBC drama Line of Duty, has been announced as the latest Ambassador for the learning disability charity Mencap.
At 36, Jessop has had a successful career with lead guest roles in Casualty, Holby City and Doctors. He then went on to become the first actor with Down’s syndrome to star in a prime-time BBC drama, playing Ben in Mark Haddon’s BAFTA nominated Coming Down the Mountain, before going on to star as Terry Boyle in Line of Duty.
Jessop has won various Best Actor awards for his short films and is also the first professional actor with Down’s syndrome to tour theatres as Hamlet, and the first to become a full voting member of BAFTA.
Last year, Jessop received an honorary Doctorate of Arts from the University of Winchester for his services to the entertainment industry.
Tommy wants to use his role to get rid of misconception that people with learning disabilities can’t do certain things
According to research by Mencap, more than two in five Brits (42%) have not seen someone with a learning disability in the media in the past year. A lack of disability representation in the media is thought to contribute to a poor understanding of disability by the general public, with two thirds of Brits saying they don’t know what a learning disability is.
Poor understanding of disability leads to stigma and discrimination, and Tommy says he wants to use his new position as Mencap Ambassador to get rid of the common perception that people with a learning disability can’t do certain things.
He said: “People with a learning disability should be able to do anything we want, for example getting married or being a role model for people to look up to. I am proud and honoured to be a Mencap Ambassador. I hope through this role I can help Mencap keep doing what they do best to carry on their really hard work in the future.”
Tommy joins Harvey Price and George Webster in his role, with more ambassador set to be announced in the coming months.
“Our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to live a happy and healthy life if you have a learning disability”
Edel Harris, Chief Executive of Mencap, said: “Having Tommy on board as an Ambassador is a great way to de-stigmatise and challenge misconceptions about people who have Down’s syndrome and/or who have a learning disability. He will also help us increase the visibility of people with a learning disability across the media and society to help transform attitudes.
“Our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to live a happy and healthy life if you have a learning disability and I look forward to working alongside Tommy to make this vision a reality.”