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Line of Duty star Tommy Jessop's mum has commented on the show's use of the word 'oddball' to describe a character with Down's syndrome, saying she doesn't think it's a 'big deal'.
Tommy plays Terry Boyle in the show, who becomes a suspect in the murder of Gail Vella. Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar) controversially described the character as a 'local oddball' in the first episode of the new series - a line which has come in for criticism in light of the character's disability.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Tommy's mum Jane Jessop addressed the controversy, defending Line of Duty writer Jed Mercurio.
She said: "I didn't think it was a big deal. Jed's a very talented writer; I feel he's bringing into the light things that need to be brought into the light."
She added that she prefers to focus on the positives of her son's career. Tommy was the first professional actor with Down's syndrome to play Hamlet, and also appeared in 2007's BAFTA-nominated BBC drama Coming Down the Mountain alongside Nicholas Hoult.
Jane said: "He's enriched us enormously. I'm delighted with the young man he's turned out to be."
The 'oddball' comment on Line of Duty was particular offensive to some as it was made on World Down's Syndrome Day (21 March).
One person on Twitter wrote: "Massive fan of [Line of Duty] but describing the individual as the 'local odd ball' especially on World Down [sic] Syndrome day does not cut it!"
Another person said: "Describing a character with Down's Syndrome as 'the local odd ball' is not f***ing ok."
Mercurio later stepped in to defend the show, saying the word 'oddball' has 'no connotation for learning difficulties'.
Responding to another tweet which claimed no police officer would use the term 'oddball' to refer to a suspect with a disability, Mercurio wrote: "We work with numerous police advisers. Line of Duty portrays policing with some of its failings.
"The officer in question doesn't work with vulnerable people and hadn't met the suspect. The ones dealing with the suspect used different, more appropriate language.
"I'm not sure if you're saying no police officer would use that term (some would - and way, way worse, tbh) or that TV drama can't use a term that, for the reasons I've explained, just doesn't have the intended connotation you've subjectively attributed."
A BBC spokesperson told LADbible at the time: "Ted Hastings has never met Terry Boyle. In the scene, he is reviewing the evidence against the character. The word used in dialogue refers to an eccentric or loner, which fits the stalker/obsessed fan theory of Gail Vella's murder. The dialogue has no meaning or connotation that relates to the character's disability."
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