Teenage actor with Down’s syndrome to star alongside the biggest names in comedy tonight

Thomas Smith on the set of Upstart Crow. Picture: Carol Smith

Thomas Smith on the set of Upstart Crow. Picture: Carol Smith

A teenage actor with Down's syndrome has performed with some of the biggest names in British comedy as he appears in the new series of BBC Two's Upstart Crow.

Thomas Smith in costume. Picture: Carol Smith

Thomas Smith in costume. Picture: Carol Smith

Thomas Smith, aged 16, from Attleborough, will be starring in tonight's episode which airs at 8.30pm alongside David Mitchell, Harry Enfield, Ben Miller and Liza Tarbuck.

Mr Smith has been acting for five years in amateur productions, both with Thetford Players and Norfolk Amateur Drama Society, but this is his first professional role.

Like his character in Upstart Crow, Rodney, a child who suffers prejudice, he has also suffered discrimination in his ambitions to be a professional actor, facing rejection when trying to join amateur groups.

But his perseverance and determination has paid off with him also filming a TV advert that will be broadcast later this year.

He dreams of becoming a professional actor when he leaves college and will be watching the episode with his family and friends at his own 'premiere party' complete with red carpet and limo.

His father, Andy Smith said: 'Thomas has always loved acting, but we have had to fight for Thomas to be accepted.

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'When trying to enrol Thomas in drama groups, we would often find that suddenly there were no places left, phone calls were not returned or we were simply told that 'the group is not suitable'.

'As parents we feel strongly that Thomas should have the same opportunities as his brother and were so pleased when he got this role.'

To help Mr Smith find new roles he applied to become part of an agency that specialises in actors living with disabilities.

His mother Carol Smith said: 'In 2017, we heard about a new agency specifically for people with disabilities.

'Thomas attended a casting and was accepted. We certainly didn't expect such an interesting job so quickly.

'The acting world is so competitive for people without disabilities, even more so with people with disabilities.'

Upstart Crow is a BBC Two comedy based on the life of William Shakespeare. It stars David Mitchell as William Shakespeare, Liza Tarbuck as his wife and Harry Enfield as his father and is currently in its third series.