1. You booked your role in Speechless on your 18th birthday. How did it feel to get a present like that?
I was just so excited. It was the best present ever! I was overwhelmed; it was a little hard to believe at first. We had been waiting for about 3 months to hear the final word on casting.
2. How well does the program reflect your experiences -- and your family’s -- with cerebral palsy (CP)?
A good deal of what you see are things that have really happened in my own life. The sled hockey episode is a direct result of the producers and writers finding out I play sled hockey in real life. Although I am not great at it, I absolutely love playing.
3. Your character, JJ, has more severe CP than you. Unlike you, he can’t speak. What challenges
does that present?
Sometimes I just want to blurt out what JJ is saying and feeling. Every night, my mom and I come home and go over the next day’s scenes, and she really helps me dial in on the emotions JJ would be feeling during the scenes -- then I come up with the different expressions.
4. Apart from CP, how are you and JJ alike?
I have always had a sense of humor and love to make people laugh, so I can totally relate to JJ’s sense of humor. My parents have always said that I should be a comedian! Seriously.
5. What’s an ideal day off? What do you like to do for fun?
I am an avid movie fan and especially enjoy the Marvel and DC franchises. I am also a resident expert in all things Star Wars.
6. What are your favorite foods?
Chinese, Chinese, Chinese, and Italian. I also love my food spicy! Tabasco is always a good backup if it doesn’t have enough spice.
7. How does it feel to be a role model for others with CP?
I love the fact that I can encourage and spark a fire in others to not let their disability define who they are or what they can do in life. It’s just awesome.
8. What about acting drives you?
I’m an actor because I just love it. I love every minute of it! The fact that it allows me to bring smiles to people’s faces, make them laugh, and even make them cry is what drives me.
9. What message should your success send to others with CP?
Don’t let your disability define who you are or what you can do in life. Don’t set limits on yourself.
10. Aside from laughs, what do you hope viewers take away from watching your show?
Speechless gives viewers an inside look at the challenges those with special needs and their families face daily. As viewers watch week after week, I hope they begin to see JJ as a typical high school kid, not as JJ, the disabled kid.
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