08:11pm Sunday 23 February 2020

Late diagnosis no barrier to stardom

WAAPA student Jonny Hawkins.

Jonny recently shared his experience at an event held by ECU to mark International Day for People With a Disability, which is celebrated on 3 December 2013.

It wasn’t until the 25-year-old was rehearsing on stage at the WA Academy of Performing Arts that he got his first clue he might have dyslexia.

“I was performing and the director said to me ‘when are you going to learn your scripts word-perfect? You’ve got to stop paraphrasing’,” Jonny said.

“That was the first inkling that I might have dyslexia. At first I was worried and I didn’t want anyone to know because I thought it would affect casting and people would think I couldn’t keep up.”With the help of ECU’s Equity Officers, Jonny was diagnosed with dyslexia and a plan was devised to help him overcome his difficulties with written language.

“A lot of things made sense once I found out,” he said.

“There had always been a sort of chasm between the person I was face-to-face and the person I was on paper and now I knew why.”

Jonny credits his dyslexia with forcing him to develop an outgoing personality to make up for the difficulties he encountered with reading and writing.

“After high school I worked as a concierge at a hotel in London which was very much about knowing and working with people,” he said.

“I had to find out as much about the guests as I could, when their birthday was, what kinds of things they liked, which I was pretty good at.”

After returning to Australia Jonny made the decision to pursue his long-term dream to become an actor.

“I realised that all I wanted to do in life is tell people’s stories,” he said.

“Once I decided I’m going to be an actor I resolved that I wouldn’t take any work that wasn’t acting related.

“I did Dame Edna impersonations I would dress up as Captain Cook and walk around Circular Quay on weekends, I threw myself into it.”

While working as an extra Jonny met Priscilla, Queen of the Desert writer and director Stephan Elliot.

“Stephan told me that if I was serious about being an actor I needed training and he said the best place to go was WAAPA,” he said.

“I went into the first audition not thinking I would get very far, but then they asked me to come back for a second audition and then I was accepted.”

Jonny has just completed his second year WAAPA’s acting program. Following suggestions by Equity Officers he now uses a digital notetaker provided by ECU to help him learn scripts by listening rather than reading.

“I’m actually really grateful to have dyslexia,” he said.

“While I hate that it‘s caused me problems and a lot of insecurities, I feel like it’s made me the best version of myself because it forced me to focus on developing skills that can’t be written down on a piece of paper.”


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