A 10-year-old girl from Luddenden Foot will be making her small screen acting debut in CBBC’s new adaption of Dame Jacqueline Wilson’s best-selling book Katy.
The drama revolves around a young girl called Katy who has to adjust to life as a wheelchair user following an accident that leaves her with a spinal cord injury. Jessie Wade-Rathbone plays another disabled person that Katy meets on her journey.
Jessie, who is a wheelchair user, said: “I was a bit scared at the beginning because it was the first time I had done anything like this and I even had to go into the audition room alone without Mum or Dad.
“But the people were really friendly and I really enjoyed it.
“Then when I found out I got the part it was unreal. Then knowing that I was going to be on TV was the best feeling ever.
“The filming was so much fun, from learning my lines to being on set and seeing how everything works behind the scenes. I loved every second.
Jessie has cerebral palsy which affects both her legs and her right arm. She first found out about the role through Whizz-Kidz, a charity that provides help for disabled children and young people thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Sarah, Jessie’s mum, said “Whizz-Kidz provided Jessie with her powered wheelchair when she was five and she also attends the Whizz-Kidz club in Leeds. One of the workers from the Whizz- Kidz club told us the BBC were looking for disabled children to audition for roles in a new show and Jessie decided she wanted to go for it.
“When we went to the auditions in Manchester Jessie really shone. Originally she was just auditioning for a background part, but the producers were so taken with her that they decided to give her a speaking role.
“I was really surprised as Jessie had no previous experience acting and we didn’t know she had a passion for it.
“They told us that she’s a natural. I’m really proud of her.”
Filming Katy has given Jessie the acting bug, and she has since been recruited by Zebedee Management, an inclusive talent agency that promotes models, actors and performers with disabilities.
Sarah said: “I did not have to push her to do anything. It’s obvious she’s a natural. It’s such a good cause as well so we have to encourage her. It’s important we all see disabled characters played by disabled actors”.
Jessie added: “Being with Zebedee feels like being part of another family. It is cool being around other kids who are just like me.”
Kira Glossop, Chairman of the Kidz Board at Whizz-Kidz, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Jessie will be featuring in CBBC’s Katy. Everybody at Whizz-Kidz who has met her knows that Jessie is a star in the making and we hope we’ll be seeing her on our screens a lot more in the future.
“It is so important for disabled children and young people to see people like themselves represented in the mainstream media, and so we think it is fantastic that the BBC have cast a young wheelchair user like Jessie in this role.”
Katy screens on CBBC on Tuesdays at 5pm and is also available on the BBC iPlayer.