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#176 Glee's Lauren Potter on Down Syndrome Awareness

by Kira Dineen
March 18th 2022

We are ecstatic to introduce this week’s guest, Lauren Potter! You might know Lauren as Becky Jackson from the TV show Glee. She was in all six seaso... More

How is it that we find ourselves surrounded by such complexity such elements of D. N. A. Hi you're listening to DNA today a podcast and radio show where we discover new advances in the world of genetics, from genetic technology like CRISPR to rare diseases to new research. We have you covered for a decade. DNA today has brought you the voices of leaders in genetics. I'm cured. I mean I'm a certified genetic counselor and your host vision is dedicated to pioneering the next generation of genomics providing tools that demonstrate the possibilities of in situ a single cell spatial genomics. These tools are enabling researchers to gain insight into the biological systems that govern human health and disease. Stay tuned for our full episode with vision where we explore single cell spatial genomics.

Got a sneak peek by visiting their website at vision dot com. That's V I Z G E N dot com christian leaders in spatially resolved single cell transcriptome. Mix Mattera harnesses the latest technology to empower you along your family forming journey, materia informs you about your genetic and other pregnancy related risks and options through at home genetic testing materials processes overseen by maternal fetal medicine specialists, doctors who are experts in pregnancy complications. So when you request a kit terra provider will place your order depending on your insurance coverage. You may have your testing cost covered Mattera also provides virtual genetic counseling to make sure that You understand the test and your results. My 23 pairs carrier screening is currently on the way and I'm excited to share my experience with you during our full episode interview with me terra stay tuned for this episode on DNA today. The other test they offer is called Peaches and Me which is a noninvasive prenatal screening for pregnant people to learn for the chance their baby to have chromosomal conditions like Down syndrome and the sex of their baby by your own kids at Mi Tierra genetics dot com and use code DNA today for 10% off.

That's M I T E R A genetics dot com. Mi Tierra predict prevent prepare Perkinelmer genomics is a global leader in genetic testing, focusing on rare diseases, inherited disorders, newborn screening and hereditary cancer testing services support the full continuum of care from preconception and prenatal to neonatal pediatric and adult testing options include sequencing for target genes, multiple genes, the whole exon genome and copy number variations. Using a simple saliva or blood sample. Perkinelmer genomics answers complex genetic questions that can proactively inform patient care and end the diagnostic odyssey for families, learn more at perkinelmer genomics dot com. I am ecstatic to introduce our guest Lauren potter who you might know as Becky Jackson from the Tv show Glee. She was in all six seasons playing a character who like her has Down syndrome on top of being a fabulous actress. She is a fierce advocate.

President Obama appointed her to the President's committee for people with intellectual disabilities. She has advocated with ability path best buddies International, the national Down syndrome society. The american Association of People with disabilities and special olympics. Thank you so much Lauren for joining us on DNA today. It is an honor to have you on the podcast and perfect timing with world down syndrome day on March 21. So welcome Lauren. Why? Thank you so much care of, I have to say I'm very excited because I'm a bleak. Glee started at least Aaron you guys probably filmed it beforehand, But it started airing in two 1009 when I was a freshman in high school. So I very much grew up with Glee before we get into your exciting career. Can you share with our listeners what Down syndrome is if they haven't heard of it before, Kara um thank you for finding me by way um to be with you and on the podcast and I'm so very excited and I don't know who's more excited, It's probably me because I'm a huge fan.

You thank you for hosting such an important discussion. First. Self doubt system is exciting journey in life, but it gives me a look at life that not many people got you know that all said one has given me an extra common some, but it also has given me a lot of joy for a second. A lot of people think it's a disability, but I think it's just different two way to look at at live and to love life. Yeah, I I absolutely love it. It sounds like it's very much a part of who you are as a person, what was it like growing up with Down syndrome? Can you tell me in our audience a little bit about your childhood? Well, like I said, Cara, that was rude to him.

Kiss me and equity calm some that's excellent little piece of material and myself means that I have worked harder and no longer to do. Most people do quickly. For example, um it Really took me two years um, to learn how to walk and, but I did learn how to read what I was by your zone and thank goodness my family taught me to sign language, which that was amazing. Um, it was really impressive. But what I wasn't isn't because talking um took years before people outside of my family, I couldn't understand me and and understand what I'm saying. Yeah, that can definitely be a challenge.

Because I think with any Children, their parents usually get what they're saying and they're they're interpreting for other people, right? I'm sure your mom has had situations with that. And my mom has to write when I was a little kid, like, oh, I know exactly what she's talking about and other people are like, what is she saying? And I really like how you explain that is the way that you view down syndrome is not a disability, but that it's different and it makes you unique, but some people without syndrome do have a lot of problems with their heart or with their stomachs um, perhaps and when they, when they were born, but it was, I was pretty healthy because my, my mom took really good care of me. Um, I mean take care of me and herself when she was pregnant with me. Of course you can tell that mom loves you so much and supports you in your career with everything. And I heard that you started dancing before you started walking.

So you're saying that it took you a little longer to walk than other people, but that didn't stop you started dancing before you were walking. When did you start dreaming? Like I think I want to become an actress. Like when did you start thinking about that? Was it from a really young age? Well, yes, Karen, it was a blast to dance and perform for it audiences awhile audiences. I can remember my first recital of my dance class when I was all over, they call me, you know, on the back of the state to take so I took a bow and when I heard the applause, I was in heaven I do. I knew that now I wanted to be a dancer and an actress, you know, you know, at the same time. And so to answer to your question, Karen, I think I was About four years old when I, we started to dream of being an activist and it bite me hard bite me, wow, that is so young, I did not know what I wanted to be up for.

I think back then I wanted to be like a dentist, which did not end up happening. I mean the role of Glee in playing Becky Jackson and lee putting together of being an actress and dancing. So tell me about auditioning for Glee. I know we're going back in time, I don't know If that was like 2007, I want to guess, but what was the experience like auditioning? Well, my mom got a call from a friend with thai feel Hollywood um the movement um named Gail Williamson told us that they were looking for a spunky and sassy girl who played So you're like check, check, I'm spunky, I'm sassy high school um when the Kathy director was looking for a girl who was smart, cute and with here 13 other girls and a hopeful tight output the same part, but why Murphy, the producer of Glee giving me a chance and I was so wow.

Do you remember how soon you found out that you've got the role? Was it a long time was like months or was it only a few days? It was weeks, wow, I don't know if that's long or short, I don't know about your industry too much, that feels like a long time to wait to be like, am I going to get this role? That's, that's really, really exciting, wow and Ryan Murphy is such a rock star. I mean american horror story glee. Just so many things. So I know we talked a little bit about your childhood in high school. I heard you didn't make the cheerleading squad, but then obviously in glee you're the most popular cheerio. How did that feel to play someone that had such a prominent role and become a celebrity cheerleader? Well um to tell you the truth, Kara, I was devastated when they didn't pick, need to be a T leader and my high school, I tried out and I worked really, really hard on it and they even, they don't even let me to believe that it was, that was going to be picked.

That must have been really hard. Yeah, it's really hard. But unfortunately I, I think they picked me because I don't look like the other girls or I'm not popular or not and I'm not cool and I didn't become a palm cream at all and it was really hard and I loved it. And when you know when my family and my parents celebrated for me to get in actually what happened was that we were looking at, you know, my mom's laptop, we were getting like, you know, cross our makers and hopefully we get and I get in but sadly I tried out and I passed out and and in high school my coach told me that um I failed and I kind of felt like my dreams was crushed.

I kind of felt I was hurt. It's something you really wanted to be a cheerleader, be part of that group. And as you said, you love performing. So you know, being a cheerleader constantly performing. And thank God that when I didn't get in from my high school either, um I got to be an ugly, I was a cheerleader. This, you know, Fassi um spark, sparky little Becky. Um, I got to be a cheerleader are ugly. I'm like, yes, you're one of the most famous cheerleaders in the world. I mean let's be real, right? Yeah, I, I felt so relieved. Really? I was so excited when they picked me and toast and me to be this lucky little cheerleader. Yeah. And big part of your role on Glee was working very closely with jane lynch. So she, for those that are kind of thinking back to glee, She plays Sue Sylvester. So the head of the cheerios, the cheerleading squad, what was it like to work with Jane?

Well, jane is a wonderful and kind person and and she sold down to Earth, um whom I really love and well, I will always love her forever and but she's not only the funniest person on earth, She's hilarious, at least in the show, I mean you're talking about actually knowing her, but I mean some of her lines, I'm just like, wow, she gives me the woman's hug than anyone in the universe in the world. I was working with Jalen was a ton of fun and she also taught me some important acting skills. What did she teach you? Um she teach me like you know at five um about she was a patient with me and she spoke with me with respect and care my mom.

Um I can still hear from her now. And and then I always text her on her birthday. So you guys have a pretty good relationship that you're pretty close close. Yeah. Because most of your scenes ugly. It's you to like obviously you're in a lot of scenes the show you're in all six seasons but a lot of the scenes where you have a lot of lines, it's with her and it's the two of you being like like I think of one scene where they're in like the principal's office and I don't I don't remember what it was but Becky the character that you play like got mad at something, you know what I'm going to say and flipped over like the xylophone or something. I feel like that's the scene that is like all over youtube when she gets angry at something, she flips over the xylophone like in the hallway. Do you remember filming that scene I think so sometimes I do sometimes I don't really Yeah because there's just so many did you know perkinelmer genomics was one of the first laboratories to offer whole genome sequencing on a clinical basis.

Whole genome sequencing can maximize clinical diagnostic yield for patients with a turnaround time of six weeks. Perkin Elmer's whole genome sequencing task is designed to provide access to additional valuable information compared to an exam. Perkinelmer genomics provides one of the world's most comprehensive programs for detecting clinically significant genomic changes. Perkinelmer genomics delivers knowledge that can empower health. Perkinelmer is a global leader committed to innovating for a healthier world during their mission at Perkinelmer genomics dot com. And also stay tuned for our interview with Perkinelmer where we're going to be exploring the power of whole genome sequencing. Also teased that my guest for this episode is a world renowned geneticist. So you're not going to want to miss this one. But while you wait for the episode, head over to Perkinelmer genomics dot com to start discovering all Perkinelmer has to offer his DNA testing turned your life upside down genetic counseling can help brian kirkpatrick is the founder of watershed Vienna where she offers her years of expertise to help people process the emotions and family dynamics around genetic test results for people seeking DNA testing.

Brand can help people choose the right DNA test for those that have already done testing. She can review genetic results, Brand guides people uncovering a situation of not parent expected coaches, those preparing to share a DNA discovery and assist those attempting to search for biological family members to find the right path forward. Here's a fun bonus, watershed Vienna has their own podcast called D. N. A clarity and support podcast. Listen in your favorite podcast player by searching D. N. A clarity and support podcast or you can go directly to watershed DNA dot com where you can also book a consultation with bryan and learn more about all the ways watershed D. N. A can support you and your family. Again, that's watershed D N A dot com. You also worked with jay lynch outside of glee and you did a public service announcement for spread the word to end the word, which was a campaign about ending the R word. Can you tell people why it's so important that they don't use the R. Word and how that can affect people like yourself and other people in the Down syndrome community?

Well to just to let people know how the R word is, what people used to say about people like me. Like all the other words that labels and insults others, like calling someone retarded can only hurt them. It kills them and it's my hope and my dreams that we can and the use of the all labels to describe people who are are different, the more we realize that person is a person. Well they have a disability, a different look a different way to love people or have Lesson two Arms or two Legs. We all have the same wants and needs like the need to be respected and love and here's the thing, you can't judge people, you can't touch people by their looks and you can't touch people who they are.

And um I learned a lesson that um, you shouldn't judge people by, you know, by its cover, you can't judge people by its cover and you know what, if you want to do that, you have to have a good look and, and you know, I have, you know, somebody to talk to don't do so to these words, someone once taught me that you don't show words words are better than actions. You gotta show them actions better than words. Yeah, I think that's very, very powerful to hear from you and I do see a big change in the last few years that I hear the r word less and less, which makes me really happy that I think people are learning and especially people that are our age that are like young millennials and I think gen z the kids younger than us, I think that our generations are really not using the word as much and that's having an effect on older people too, that they're not using it as much.

So hopefully that can continue and thank you so much for being part of this campaign because I still hear people reference this campaign. So it's just awesome that you've been able to speak out and be such an amazing advocate. Another way that you're being an advocate is that I saw you speak through a video at the 23rd annual Best buddies international Leadership Conference. Best buddies is such a wonderful organization. Can you tell us a little bit more about best buddies? Sure. Um Best place is a wonderful organization that pairs people with disabilities with pierce without disabilities. It starts in middle school, middle schools and keep screen until after college they help but five friends for people like me, jobs for people like me and places to live. People like me and I was honored to be and ambassador for the national best buddy sport of directors and I go to in yellow Bliss 5 4 times already and now you're best buddies leadership coffin.

I saw tons of kids and people who were excited to meet me but we're even more excited to have fun chips with your buddies around the world. Yeah. The crowd went crazy when you're on stage, you had a lot of fans in the audience. And another thing that I saw you in was the short film that you started called the Guest room for those that maybe haven't seen the guest room yet. I watched on video so you can watch it for free. I don't know if there's other places where we can buy it but can you tell our audience what the film is about. Absolutely. The guest room is about a young woman with Down syndrome who becomes pregnant, she is in love with a man went down syndrome and they argue and and they love and you know like and like a normal couple you know I was learning the experience, it was a learning experience about a couple with disability and how they can fall in like anyone I know and they can also have problems like anyone.

Yeah it was it was a beautiful film. I really loved the film because it shows a lot of people that being a person with a disability is the same as being a person without a disability. We all face the same challenges. It may look different but the outside but on the inside we all have struggles what who we are have to be related with others. Yeah I think that's very well said and and once I was looking more into the guest room after I enjoyed the film. I also saw that you were an executive producer which is really cool. So was that the first time you've been an executive producer? Like doing something that is on the other side of the camera that isn't acting. Yeah wow. So that must've been a really cool experience to be an actor in the film and be an executive producer and what do you like about being an actress?

You've been in multiple you know films and movies and tv shows obviously with Glee, what do you love about it? I really love being in primary camera. I love having people to watch me and seeing me play the part of the other person. It was so much fun to be someone else. But a little bit while I love comedy rules likely um, and drunk history but don't worry I wasn't really actually drunk but you know, but I also loved doing drama like Chicago med a guest room. I love working with other actors and actresses and the great awesome crew and be all set. It is my dream come true wow. So I feel like you just love acting and we're going to see you in a lot more in the future.

Like I hope so. I don't want you to quit acting because I want to keep watching everything that you're in. I don't want to quit. Absolutely good good. Did you know there's a genetic counselor that specializes in offering care to those in the adopted community, Brianne kirkpatrick who wrote the D. N. A guide for adoptees to provide a resource for those in the adopted community where utilizing DNA testing to find biological relatives or to seek out medical information. She also started watershed D. N. A. To offer personalized genetic counseling to directly support people in the aftermath of a surprise DNA discovery, you can hear Brianne share her insight from her book on episode one oh three of DNA today, learn more at watershed D. N. A. Dot com where you can also book your consult today with Brianne. Every pregnancy has a chance to have a genetic abnormality or complication. Mattera empowers you to make the most informed reproductive decisions through their at home genetic tests without needing your doctors order. These tests include noninvasive prenatal screening, Mackerras, peaches and me and carrier screening materials.

23 pairs request your own kit at Mattera genetics dot Com and use code DNA today for 10% off. That's M. I. T. E. R. A genetics dot com Mi Tierra predict prevent prepare the next generation of genomics is here introducing more scope from vision. You can explore new dimensions through spatial contacts with more scope. Vision integrates more fish technology with high resolution imaging fluid X. Image processing and automation to deliver complete end end single cell spatial genomics solution. The Mexico platform comes with everything your lab needs to get running christian built their expertise into every component of the system so you can easily obtain and analyze high quality more fish measurements. More scope measures the expression of hundreds of genes across hundreds of thousands of cells. Its resolution ranges from the tissue scale all the way to the sub cellular scale. This allows researchers to interact, analyze and interpret the most complex datasets. Stay tuned for our interview with vision on DNA today where we explore single cell spatial genomics.

Get a sneak peek by visiting the website at vision dot com. That's V I Z G E N dot com vision leaders in spatially resolved single cell transcriptome Mix. Mm hmm. You're a role model for so many people. I've seen so much online of people looking up to you. Can you share a couple fan interactions that you've had? I know we talked about some like best buddies, their any that you've had that stand out to you or that you're remembering right now. I would love to show actually. Um I remember one time I was I was shopping for groceries to my father a moment came up to us. It said to me, are you Lord potter? And of course I knew it immediately. Um, what this was about. I knew she had to me ugly and probably recognized me. Yeah. But what was more important was that she took my hand and brought me her grocery cart and it introduced me to her son, a wonderful son Who was about five years old at the time.

And 1000 drums too. And the mom was so excited to meet me. But to show her son that someone like him was famous. It was living and working at exactly where she wanted to be. I also love it when parents with little kids and babies. Um tell me that I get them hope for their baby's future. It just makes me cry. It makes me cry sometimes really hard. It always excites me when I see and hear about people with disabilities who see Becky Jackson. It's in inspiration to work really hard and to work for their dreams of being wherever they wanted to be. Yeah, I think it's just so powerful because a lot of people don't know that people with Down syndrome can do so much and I think it can just be such a great, you're such a great example of being an independent woman and achieving all your dreams.

I mean it's just, it's really, really cool and I have to say like even as a student, um, when I was like, learning about Down syndrome, a lot of our instructors would mention actresses and actors that have Down syndrome, including you and saying like Down syndrome as we've talked about? It's a spectrum disorder. And so some people have more challenges than others and think it's really cool that sometimes now when I'm talking to patients, I'll mention you and say, oh, have you heard of Down syndrome? Maybe they say no, I'm like, have you watched Glee? So I think it's just, it's really cool that everybody knows Glee and I think you just raised so much awareness for Down syndrome because of that. Do you have any advice for parents? Like when you met with this woman that she has the baby with Down syndrome, the five year old that you mentioned, is there any advice that you told her that you tell parents Well, listen, listen, having a tie with Down syndrome can at first be scary in confusing the birth of ice that can give, it's don't be a child of thousands from any differently.

Then you would treat any other child. We know we have dreams, we make mistakes but we sometimes get into trouble but it passed parents well their Children like I do with my parents when they are being good and when they were having trouble being good. Yeah, definitely. I think it's just like every kid right? Like we've all made mistakes, we all do things and you said just being like every other kid. That's really, really good advice Lauren are there any resources that you recommend for people to check out? We've mentioned films you've been in? We mentioned best buddies which is awesome. Is there anything else or those the main resources that you would point people to? Um sure check out your look with down syndrome education and don't forget best buddies and special Olympics.

I realized I didn't ask you about Special Olympics. So you were an ambassador for the 2015 Special Olympics and you won some medals for competing and everything. What are your favorite sports? Thank you Kyla, it was an honor to be a goodwill ambassador for special olympics. It was especially honored to be of the world out Summer Games is celebration at the Los Angeles coliseum. I I even got to meet Debbie launder and so many abilities and and so many awesome athletes. I also attended the 50th Anniversary for the Special olympics at the social field in Chicago. It was so awesome and amazing and I love tim's driver and he's such an amazing guy and I really love swimming, wow, that is awesome, wow, you've just done so much in your career already and you're young, so we have so much to look forward to in your career before we end.

Is there a favorite line you have from Glee or any line that you remember that you really liked? I mean I know you have you have some that are pretty, some pretty sassy lines, I have to say actually, yes, um there was um my favorite one was you know um the the um episode um was when one of your episodes was called work, So meeting me since a fester and I was talking to Will schuester it is that um give me chocolate or I will cut you. I remember that. Oh my God, that was such a good episode. That wasn't one of the earlier seasons, right? I think it was, it was earlier on who loves chocolate, Willis because I don't want people to say give me chocolate and I will call, you, don't want to know, I don't want anything so funny.

Oh my gosh, I have to say you're you're so much like your character in the sense that I feel like you have so much energy and positivity and spunky nous and sassiness, I just love it. I'm like I'm a huge fan of you and now I feel like even more so because we've gotten to know each other a little bit here, but I mean yeah, thank you so much Lauren for coming on the show, I mean this is just, it's such an honor to have you on here. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me and educate my listeners about down syndrome and your experience and your amazing acting and advocacy career. Thank you so much. I want people to know that they can follow Lauren potter on twitter facebook and instagram all at the Lauren potter did I get that right, awesome. Well anything else that you want to end with? Thank you so much for everything. Thank you for buying me here. Yeah, definitely Lauren, you're welcome back anytime, it's just fabulous to be able to talk to you and happy world Down syndrome Day coming up.

Why? Thank you. Yeah, definitely, so we'll be, we'll be posting all all about this episode um and tagging you and everything on social media for this, so thank you so much for more information about today's episode, visit DNA podcast dot com where you can also stream all episodes of the show. We encourage your questions, comments, guest pitches and ideas, send them all into info at D N A podcast dot com. Search DNA today on twitter instagram Youtube facebook so you can connect with us there and a favor. Please rate and review the podcast on Apple Spotify or wherever you listen. This truly helps us climb the charts and allow more genetic nerds like yourself to find the show. DNA today is hosted and produced by myself here Deneen, our social media lead is korean Merlino. Our video lead is Amanda Andrea Lee. Thanks for listening and join us next time to discover new advances in the world of genetics. We're all made of the same chemical lien. We're all made of.

#176 Glee's Lauren Potter on Down Syndrome Awareness
#176 Glee's Lauren Potter on Down Syndrome Awareness
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