Northern Ireland family so proud of Emmerdale’s youngest star
Theo helping to raise awareness of Down’s syndrome
Published 09/06/2011 | 05:32
He is just 12 weeks old, already the UK’s youngest soap star and the pride of his Ballymoney family.
Meet little Theo Tasker, who has Down’s syndrome and is helping spread a positive message about the genetic condition through his starring role in Emmerdale.
Despite only being born on March 16, Theo’s face has already been seen in millions of homes across Britain and Ireland in the much-loved soap through his role as baby Leo.
Theo's mum Dee Tasker is originally from Co Antrim and brought her son home this week to see his proud extended family.
Dee, whose maiden name was Havlin, visited her parents’ home in Ballymoney where young Theo was the star attraction.
The 41-year-old is well-known in music circles as part of the folk group Deanta – but not even she was famous at less than three months old.
In the soap, Theo plays the part of Leo in a storyline where he is the son of Marlon Dingle and Rhona Goskirk, whose partner is vet Paddy Kirk.
Dee says she is delighted that the Emmerdale producers decided to introduce the subject of Down's syndrome to viewers to help educate the public.
“It is great that Theo can help people see that a baby born with Down’s syndrome is just the same as any other child who laughs, smiles and is a great wee character,” she said.
“The emphasis from me and my husband Gary is not on the syndrome but on Theo as a baby. We want him to be safe, healthy, happy and give him the opportunity to fulfil his potential just as any other parent would.
“As a new mother and father we have the same challenges as any others about getting to know our child; what he likes and what stimulates him, and our aspirations for Theo are the same as every loving parent has for their child.
“We are honoured to have a child to take care of and blessed that he is happy and healthy and whatever challenges arise in the future we’ll meet them like any other parents. Theo is so placid — he gets that from his father and he loves music, so he maybe gets that from me.”
Dee is married to Yorkshireman Gary and lives at Brighouse near Leeds where she works as a teacher.
They live just a 20-minute drive away from the Emmerdale studio and Dee explained how baby Theo came to be the UK’s youngest star.
“We were told that Emmerdale wanted a Down’s syndrome baby to play the part. Initially we didn’t want to get involved because we didn’t know what the storyline would be,” she said.
“But Emmerdale invited both me and my mum Frances along to meet |them and because they were going to handle the issue so positively and sensitively we agreed Theo’s appearances.
“Emmerdale explained the storyline and we agreed that if they were going to highlight Down’s syndrome then I would like to be part of it,” Dee added.
Theo has already taken part in several days of filming and his debut on television screens came on Monday of last week.
To mark the occasion an ‘Emmerdale Party’ was held in the Havlin household in Ballymoney.
Dee said the cast of Emmerdale have really taken to Theo.
“The cast have been wonderful. They are so supportive and really dote on Theo. They have got to know him so well,” she said.
“The three main actors who work with Theo have been fantastic, especially Zoe Henry who plays Leo’s mum.
“It is a really enjoyable experience and the cast all take time to nurse him. Zoe and me have chatted and she has asked me questions about Down’s syndrome.
“The cast treat us like royalty.”
Dee and Gary — a marketing executive with Sale Sharks rugby club — have a property in Portrush and they intend to bring the young star ‘home’ to the north coast as often as possible.