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Perseverance, representation, and an unwavering attitude are attributes that young Nylan Parthipan embodies as an 11-year-old child actor. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age 2, Nylan chooses to thrive in all areas of his life, from attending school and playing sports with friends to becoming the first disabled voice actor with no prior acting experience.
I had the pleasure of talking to Nylan and his mother, Thadshika, where Nylan shared his experiences as an actor in popular children's shows like Paw Patrol, Out of My Mind, PJ Masks, and more. Keep reading as I ask Nylan five questions to learn about his journey as a Tamil child actor with a disability.
How did you begin your acting career?
Nylan explains that at 8 years old, his physiotherapist suggested he would be an excellent fit for an acting role as they were specifically looking for a child with a disability. Nylan shares that it was an animation role, and with his mother's support, they decided to give the audition a try. Unfortunately, Nylan didn't get that particular role, but it didn't discourage him from continuing to audition for other opportunities. Eventually, he landed his first role on 'Odd Squad.'
Nylan recalls, "The casting director for the first audition loved my voice and introduced me to other production companies and casting teams, which eventually led me to 'Odd Squad.'"
Nylan explains that acting found him and that he was initially nervous. But once he became familiar with the audition process, he found it thrilling and was delighted to be part of one of the shows he had watched while growing up.
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How do you navigate an acting career while going to school?
Nylan explains that balancing school and acting often feels like living a double life. During school hours, he focuses on homework, interacts with friends, and enjoys recess like any other student. However, once he returns home, he switches gears and adopts a professional approach to his acting career. Nylan describes it as a game, transitioning between two distinct lives. He also emphasizes how the support of his family helps him manage his time effectively.
What challenges have you faced, and how do you overcome them?
Nylan explains, "One challenge I face is being a person of colour, which has led to rejections based on my skin colour. Additionally, as a person with a disability, some productions are hesitant to modify a script to accommodate my needs. However, when COVID happened, it surprisingly worked to my advantage. Attending auditions in person would have highlighted the difficulties of casting a disabled actor. For instance, certain production studios lacked accessibility, making it challenging for me to secure roles, as making those changes was seen as costly. Fortunately, with auditions moving online due to COVID, it became more accessible. This shift allowed casting directors to focus on my acting skills rather than perceiving my condition as a liability. COVID levelled the playing field for someone like me."
Despite the challenges Nylan has faced, he reveals that he was cast in a show called PJ Masks: Power Heroes, where one of the characters was based on him. This particular show holds a special place in his heart, Nylan says.
How do you overcome rejection and maintain a positive attitude while continuing to pursue acting?
Nylan's answer was simple, as he attributed his perseverance as the driving force behind his determination to continue pursuing acting. He states, "While I do feel sadness, I choose to keep moving forward. I remind myself that if I were to give up now, sadness would overcome me. However, by persisting, I find happiness in the fact that I am making an effort."
My final question for Nylan was, 'What are some upcoming acting projects you have coming out?'
Nylan said he'd be featured in a Rogers commercial and plays a character in the upcoming Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie. He says that the Paw Patrol movie is a big one for him because there were so many famous people that he got to work alongside.
Make sure to check it out in theatres in September!
As I concluded my interview with Nylan, I felt compelled to ask an unplanned question to Nylan's mom, Thadshika: 'How does it feel for you to navigate Nylan's acting career?'
She explains that Nylan is a wonderful child, and she has no trouble assisting him in managing his career. However, she shares some observations she has made within the entertainment industry. "Nylan has been primarily involved in voice work rather than in-person roles, and it leads me to wonder if it's because people are hesitant when they see a person of colour or a person with a disability. Perhaps they feel burdened by the accommodations that would need to be made. Representation has undoubtedly come a long way, but individuals with disabilities still constitute the largest minority. Despite the progress, we still don't witness enough of their presence on television. This is something that needs to change, and that's why Nylan is so passionate about acting. He wants to inspire and encourage people to pursue their dreams."
What is my Identity? It's a question that we all seek to answer in our own ways throughout our lives. Each episode of Identity spotlights a different creative, some from the Tamil community and some from outside it, who will be chatting about how we take ownership of our narratives, art, politics and of course who we are. We hope to inspire you through their unique stories of seeking and finding Identity. Episodes: