Down Syndrome Actor Josh 'Ponceman' Perry's Star Turn in 'The Christ Slayer' Will Bring Inspiration

All three films in Collective Development Incorporated's 'The Quest Trilogy' have a subtle, underlying element seamlessly woven into each layered storyline. 'Innocence,' presented in unique ways.
Josh 'Ponceman' Perry and DJ Perry on set
Josh 'Ponceman' Perry and DJ Perry on set
LANSING, Mich. - Dec. 6, 2017 - PRLog -- Part One in the trilogy, 'Forty Nights' (exploring Jesus' 40 days/nights in the wilderness), had 'Moses,' the lost, frightened lamb; Part Two, 'Chasing the Star' (following the perilous journey of the Three Magi seeking the birth of the foretold 'Messiah') had it's exhuberant young Boy (Logan Krishi); and now, Part Three, 'The Christ Slayer' (the story of Roman Centurion Longinus), has 'Albus,' a young man who works as the loyal 'keeper' to 'Longinus,' a troubled, self-indulgent soul who was born into a family of Roman military privilege.

The process in casting actor Josh 'Ponceman' Perry, who has Down Syndrome, in a starring role as 'Albus' is an interesting one, in and of itself.

And while some, inside and outside of the business, may have seen the casting decision as 'risky' in nature, CDI CEO DJ Perry (no relation to Josh Perry), who wrote all three trilogy screenplays and who portrays Jesus in 'Forty Nights' and 'The Christ Slayer,' saw it as more of a 'calculated risk.'

"Yes, we take a risk, of sorts, in casting every film we do," explained DJ. "Especially in lead or major supporting roles. Every production does. I told my producers we'd vett Josh just as we do any actor."

DJ was exposed to Special Olympics through his father when he was young and there was something about the athletes with Down Syndrome that struck a chord with him. And has remained. "I always noted how 'in the present' these individuals seemed to be and how they carried an 'innocent perspective' about them," DJ added.

And there's that word 'innocent' again. In the context of the writer (DJ), and playing the character (Jesus) who'd be in many scenes with 'Albus,' there was a promising, bold backstory emerging, both on the screen and behind the scenes. And in a role that was not originally written for an actor with Down Syndrome (a condition in which a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, that can lead to possible physical problems and possible intellectual disabilities). DJ and (Director) Nathaniel Nose were starting to feel the 'X-factor' they were seeking for a 'Sam Wise type' (Sean Astin) to play opposite 'Frodo' from 'The Lord of the Rings.'

"We looked at a lot of actor reels," said Mr. Nose, "But we really needed an actor who could come off on the screen as willing to do anything to serve and save his 'Frodo' (in this story it's 'Longinus,' played by the wonderful Carl Weyant).

During his research for actors with Down Syndrome working in film/TV, DJ first came across Josh Perry. "He had the same last name, so he has to be cool, right?" DJ says with a smile. "I watched Josh's demo reels, online videos, a documentary on his life and career, and there was no question, he is an actor."

In fact, vetting showed that Josh, who was called by LA media 'One of the most successful Down Syndrome actors in Hollywood,' has an extensive resume. He was not 'gimmick casting.' He's shared the large and small screens with the likes of Bruce Willis, William H. Macy (in an episode of 'Shameless'), Bruce Dern, Tommy Chong, & Cheech Marin, Michigan's own Jeff Daniels, Val Kilmer, Emily Blunt, Cloris Leachman and many others.

Josh's brother, Scott Allen Perry (an award-winning actor-writer-director in his own right, and who is Josh's traveling companion), was presented with obvious and direct questions. Can Josh learn a multitude of lines and physically endure filming from start to finish in the Yuma desert?).

Scott called his brother "One of the most talented actors I know. His comedic timing is a natural gift, something you can't fake. His ability to show layers of emotion with one expression is incredible. And when he gets to do drama, it's mesmerizing."

When Scott, who's also in the film as 'Gaius,' a village enforcer, gave assurances, the decision was made.

"I knew deep inside that 'The Christ Slayer' was going to 'fly or die' with the casting of the 'Albus' character," DJ admits. "And Josh makes it fly. Audiences are going to love him. The performance has that 'intangible something,' the natural innocence we were looking for, while providing proper levity and drama serving the character and story. Josh has the gift of natural humor and chemistry in his interaction with everyone, on-screen and off."

For the past decade, Hollywood has opened up in its casting of actors with Down Syndrome and disabilities.

And DJ hopes that CDI's casting decision will encourage other production companies to take chances in their casting decisions.

"After a special screening of 'Chasing the Star' in Yuma (shown simultaneous to 'The Christ Slayer' filming), Josh was introduced to the audience as one of the stars," explained DJ. "A youngster with Down Syndrome came up to Josh and was so excited he was starring in a movie. To see the inspiration Josh gave that boy was amazing.

"And I know when the film comes out, everyone will see the magic. In a word, and with all due affection, I'd describe Josh as 'Special.'"

'The Christ Slayer' will release on the run up to Christmas 2018 completing The Quest Trilogy.

The Christ Slayer teaser trailer


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