Joy for Belfast actor James Martin as he scoops award at US festival
A Northern Ireland actor with Down's syndrome has won a major award at a TV festival in the United States.
James Martin, who is from Belfast, scooped the best actor gong at the New York City TV festival for his first film, Ups and Downs, which also won the best TV film award.
The BBC NI drama featured James' character Conal going on a road trip with his sister, played by Rosie Barry, to a concert in Belfast against the wishes of their mother, who is played by Newry film and TV star Susan Lynch.
Rosie received a best actress nomination at the New York festival as did Aidan Gault for best cinematography.
James won plaudits from the critics for his performance in Ups and Downs when it was screened earlier this year, but he was stunned to hear about the American award.
"I wasn't in New York for the ceremony but I got a call from out of the blue to say I'd won the best actor award and I was thrilled," he said.
"A friend of the writer and director Eoin Cleland picked up the awards and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on my trophy."
The 28-year-old son of broadcaster and journalist Ivan Martin started acting as a teenager with the Belfast drama group Babosh.
After Ups and Downs, he was cast in the ITV and Netflix drama Marcella, which stars award-winning actress Anna Friel whose father Des is from Belfast.
The latest series of Marcella is set in Belfast and is expected to be screened early in the New Year.
James appears in four of the eight episodes and he has been tipped by industry insiders to secure more acting roles in the future.
James, who is hoping his achievements will inspire other people with Down's syndrome to "follow their dreams", has been inundated with more than 500 messages of congratulations for his award on social media.
They include one from his father's former Downtown Radio colleague Candy Devine, who now lives in Australia, and another one from BBC Newsline presenter Tara Mills.
The awards are only the latest in a series of successes for Ups and Downs right across the world. The production won the top award in the Great Message International Film Festival in India.
Eoin Cleland won the best director award in the Culture and Diversity Film Festival in Hollywood and other awards and nominations have come in Canada, Russia, Argentina and Italy.