Jessop made his television debut in Holby City and became the first actor with Down Syndrome to play a leading role in a prime-time television drama when he was cast opposite Nicholas Hoult in the BAFTA-nominated film Coming Down The Mountain.
He has also appeared in Casualty and Doctors, landed roles in critically acclaimed short films and is the first professional actor with Down Syndrome to play Hamlet – an achievement Sir Mark Rylance called “phenomenal”.
Tommy’s acting career was supported by parents Jane and Edmund and his brother William, a documentary filmmaker who once said, “Tommy can’t really tie his shoelaces, but he can be on stage and break your heart.”
Line Of Duty returns as Terry Boyle, a man with Down Syndrome who is being ruthlessly exploited by an organized crime group. But it’s the actor playing Boyle that gets everyone talking, and Twitter users are praising Tommy Jessop’s performance (pictured).
Jane, a former marketing director, discovered her youngest son had Down Syndrome the day he was born.
“My first reaction when I found out on day one that Tommy had Down Syndrome was, ‘Why did God send him to us?'” Jane recalled in William’s 2013 short film about his brother, Tommy’s Story “.
“But I was also very worried about his older brother that this would affect his life. I always thought that people would see me differently too. But of course, none of that turned out to be true.”
William, who has directed two films about his brother and produced the sperm donor documentary 25 Siblings And Me, explained that growing up, they were “just like any other brother.”
Tommy first appeared on screens in 2007 as a supporting character in an episode of Holby City
In 2012, the Blue Apple Theater’s production of Hamlet toured twelve theaters and attracted the attention of celebrities. Sir Mark Rylance praised Tommy’s “to be” speech as “phenomenal”. Pictured: Tommy, second from right, with the cast, including his then-girlfriend Katy
“We played football together, on the jungle gym or cricket,” he recalled in a 2014 interview.
“I know my mother was initially worried about the impact having someone like Tommy as a brother would have on me, but actually I don’t remember it ever being a problem.”
“I now realize that Tommy is an incredibly strong, unifying force in our family. “We’re all still very close and I love spending time at home.”
Tommy’s flair for acting was evident from an early age.
“Tommy wanted to perform since he was a little boy,” Jane told the Daily Express.
Tommy’s big break came in 2007 when he was cast in the BBC1 TV adaptation of Coming Down The Mountain, a radio play written by Mark Haddon that focuses on the relationship between a boy with Down’s Syndrome and his angry brother. Pictured: Tommy with the cast
The feature-length film starring Skins and starring X-Men star Hoult as Tommy’s brother was nominated for a BAFTA and an Emmy. Pictured: Jessop and Hoult in the film
“He loved to make people smile and laughed a lot himself.” His elementary school had wonderful plays and Tommy always had a role. Then, as a young teenager, he joined a mixed ability theater group.”
When Jane, the Chair of the local branch of Mencap’s charity for the learning disabled, Mencap, left youth theater behind as she got older, she realized that there was nothing suitable for her son locally and decided in 2005 to start her own theater company.
Based in Winchester, Hampshire, the Blue Apple Theater casts adults in their 20s and 30s with learning disabilities for shows, giving them acting opportunities they wouldn’t have anywhere else.
Tommy’s big break came in 2007 when he was cast in the BBC1 TV adaptation of Coming Down The Mountain, a radio play written by Mark Haddon that focuses on the relationship between a boy with Down’s Syndrome and his angry brother.
Tommy Jessop with his documentary filmmaker brother William Jessop at the International Emmy Awards in November 2015
The feature-length film starring Skins and starring X-Men star Hoult as Tommy’s brother was nominated for a BAFTA and an Emmy.
“Tommy took me to the Baftas,” Jane said. “It was incredible to see Tommy relaxed, smiling and professional on the red carpet in front of the flashing cameras.” From a young age I had no idea what a great life he was going to have.
“Tommy used to be quite shy but now he’s a lot less and has a good circle of friends.” I wanted him to get a chance on stage and now he’s a very powerful artist.”
The film served as a launch pad for Tommy, who has since starred in the shorts Fighter, Innocence and Little S**t. He also got guest starring roles on BBC Radio 4’s Afternoon Plays, including an episode of Stone with Hugo Speer.
He starred in The Climb opposite Warwick Davies and had a cameo role in The Archers.
In 2012, the Blue Apple Theater’s production of Hamlet toured twelve theaters and attracted the attention of celebrities. Sir Mark Rylance praised Tommy’s “to be” speech as “phenomenal”.
William directed a documentary called Growing Up Down’s about rehearsals for the play while also filming Tommy and his co-stars contemplating love and life with Down Syndrome.
Tommy has also appeared in the short films Fighter (pictured), Innocence and Little S**t
He co-starred in the production with then-girlfriend Katy, although the couple split during filming.
“Tommy and Katy dated during filming and Katy was his very first girlfriend,” William said in an interview about the film.
“The scene in the documentary where they break up is so powerful. Because I know Tommy so well, I don’t see him as having Down Syndrome. I only see him as Tommy, but it was touching for me to see how grown up he was.”
Line Of Duty is undoubtedly Tommy’s most iconic performance to date.
He first appeared as Terry Boyle in an episode of the fifth series, but has been seen on screen much more frequently in the last series. The character first appeared in the first series in 2012, but was played by a different actor, Elliott Rosen.