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Actor with Down syndrome makes history as first to win an Oscar



The award-winning performance

Actor James Martin who went back to working his part-time day job as a Starbucks barista after starring in An Irish Goodbye, has become the first person with Down syndrome to win an Oscar for his role in the live-action short film. Martin leads the 23-minute drama short as Lorcan, a young man whose mother’s passing reunites him with his estranged brother Turlough (Seamus O’Hara).

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The acceptance speech

On Sunday (12 March), the 31-year-old, joined his co-star O’Hara and directors Tom Berkeley and Ross White on stage to accept the award for Best Live Action Short. At the end of Berkeley’s speech, he announced that it was Martin’s birthday and asked the audience to join him in singing “Happy Birthday”.

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The day jobs

Of his barista role, Martin told the Daily Mail in an earlier interview that he’s “been doing that a long time”. “It’s nice,” he said, adding that he helps “out with all the customers”. In addition to his job as a Starbucks employee at the chain’s Belfast branch, Martin is also a chef at a nearby Italian restaurant, Scalini’s. “I can make garlic bread, meatballs, salads and mussels, chips and stuff like that,” he explained of his second job.

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Overcoming stereotypes

Elsewhere in the interview, he addressed being an actor with Down syndrome, saying: “Anybody can act, it doesn’t matter if you have Down’s syndrome. Take Stephen Hawking [who had motor neurone disease] in The Simpsons,” he said. “He was a fantastic actor, he knew what he was doing but you just have to treat him like an adult. “I always say to people never judge a book by its cover.”

The President’s reception

Later that evening, Ireland’s president Michael D Higgins hailed the Oscars win as a “remarkable” year for the Irish film industry. “As a gesture to all that has been achieved, and the important contribution of the film and related industries to Irish life, [wife] Sabina and myself look forward to hosting a St Patrick’s Day reception celebrating the Irish Film, Audio-Visual and Performing Arts Communities at Aras an Uachtarain this Friday,” Higgins said.

Final thoughts

This historic win for James Martin should serve as an inspiration and a reminder that everyone has the potential to accomplish great things, regardless of any perceived limitations. It is a testament to the power of diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry and beyond.



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