Poldark star Aidan Turner hopes his latest TV role will help raise awareness of early onset Parkinson’s. The 39-year-old actor has taken on his most challenging role to date by playing a detective diagnosed with the progressive neurological condition. The character that Turner portrays in the new ITV drama series, The Suspect, is 39-year-old Dr Joe O’Loughlin, who is asked by police to assist in a potential murder inquiry. The doctor is surrounded by an air of mystery, and it soon becomes apparent he knows more than he’s admitting. Poldark fame The latest role is a totally different direction for Turner, the Dublin-born actor who became famous for his portrayal of Captain Ross Poldark in the 2015 drama, based on novels by Winston Graham. It was filmed around Cornwall’s sweeping landscapes and gave Turner the big break he’d been waiting for. Set between 1781 and 1801, the BBC series was described by the critics as an “epic romance” with “gorgeous scenery” and a “charming, handsome lead”. The plot follows Poldark as he returns to his native Cornwall after the American War of Independence. Raising awareness When Turner won the role of Dr O’Loughlin in The Suspect, he was determined to ensure an accurate reflection of early onset Parkinson’s. He hopes to raise awareness of a condition that doesn’t just affect older people. Up to 20% of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s are aged under 50. Around half of those are diagnosed while still under 40. The symptoms of Parkinson’s can be similar at any age, but the progression can be different in younger people. Common symptoms such as confusion, memory loss and balance problems are less frequent in younger people with the disease. Early onset Parkinson’s patients are usually initially treated with alternative medications to levodopa, which is used to treat older people. There is currently no cure, although research is ongoing continually. Various treatments, including medication, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, can slow down the progression of the disease. In addition, safe sleeping solutions can help people with Parkinson’s stay comfortable and safe at night. Understanding early onset Parkinson’s As part of his research into playing Dr O’Loughlin, Turner prepared for the role by working very closely with Parkinson’s UK. He revealed he had met a man named Drew Hallam, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s four years ago, at the age of only 35. Describing Hallam as an “amazing guy”, Turner said they had met up a few times and talked about details of the condition, such as how the medication makes him feel and what the symptoms had been like in the first few weeks. Turner said he was trying to ascertain how reckless his character in The Suspect might be. Hallam agreed the disease could have an impact, as he hadn’t known what to do with himself after the initial diagnosis. He can’t hold his own children and it has affected his career as a guitarist because of one of the main symptoms: the tremors. Turner said this was one of the most important parts of accurately portraying someone with Parkinson’s and also one of the most difficult things to replicate as an actor. He described his talks with Hallam as being “invaluable and crucial” to getting it right and said the conversations were far more useful than simply reading about Parkinson’s in books. Challenges faced by young people The actor said it was particularly challenging for younger people diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s because although support groups were available, it generally affected older people. Parkinson’s UK said it was in favour of The Suspect, with spokesman Paul Jackson-Clark revealing people with Parkinson’s wanted to see more characters with the condition on television. He described it as “incredible” to have the main character in a big and exciting new drama series coming to terms with his diagnosis.
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