Waleed Osman, 24, wowed audiences with his infectious charm when he played the role of “Kleintjie”, a Down syndrome boy living in a gang-infested community.
The Heideveld man with Down syndrome made his debut acting role in the newly released Showmax series, Spinners.
In the action-packed series, Ethan (Cantona James), is a 17-year-old boy from Lavender Hill, who needs to support his younger brother. Increasingly getting gatvol with gang life, Ethan discovers a possible way out via spinning, an extreme motorsport where he can put his driving skills to better use.
In the first episode of the series, Kleintjie gets roped in by a local gang to kill his brother who is part of a rival gang.
Osman plays the son of veteran actress Lee-Ann van Rooi. He gets snatched by Ethan, who must make sure he carries out the orders of a gang leader.
With a desire to fit in, Kleintjie meets the requirements of the gang but a planned hit goes wrong. For Osman, playing the role of a person with special needs is just another chance to advocate for people like him.
He says: “I enjoyed being in the movie with all the big actors in Cape Town. I wasn’t nervous at all and I wasn’t shy, I’m glad I could make my mommy proud.”
Osman lives with his mother, father, two brothers and his elderly grandfather. His mother is the only breadwinner in their home.
His aunt, Nuha Samuels, who spent hours on set with him, says: “Waleed is a special boy who survived many trials with his health.
“But his commitment to change the narrative of people with Down syndrome, is admirable.”
Van Rooi adds: “He was such a professional, he came and knew his lines, he knew what he had to do.
“I love that people with Down syndrome are able to play themselves and represent themselves.”
Bahia Janodien from the Shumeez Scott Foundation says she was informed that the film makers were looking for a special-needs person to play the role and she took Osman to audition.
Janodien explains: “When I was contacted by the agent to say he made the cut, I was overwhelmed and proud.”