Islington actress finds love on Channel 4’s Undateables

An actress with learning difficulties has found love on a controversial new TV dating documentary.

Jolene Sampson, 28, of Newington Green, featured in Channel 4’s Undateables programme on Tuesday night, in which viewers saw her set up on a blind date with Sam Barnard, who has Down’s syndrome.

The show follows the journeys of several extraordinary singletons as they enter the dating circuit with Sam, 27, a media student and actor who had never kissed a girl before the programme, taking one of the staring roles.

He enlisted the help of specialist learning difficulties dating agency Stars in the Sky, which matched him with Jolene, who lives off Newington Green Road and is currently starring in disability theatre Access All Area’s production Walk a Mile in my Shoes.

Some have accused the show of poking fun at the vulnerable with others welcome the awareness it brings to people with disabilities – but Jolene, who is also a learning support officer at charity Action for Kids, was pleased with the outcome – if slightly embarrassed.

She said: “I was just laughing at myself. And the bit at the end, when Sam talks about getting married with his father, means I might have to change my thoughts on marriage. I think it’s a waste of paper.”

Her artistic director at Access All Areas, Nick Llewellyn, who put her forward for the programme, said: “The hope is that people will learn that we all have the same feelings, wants and needs; expectations, disappointments, despairs and anxieties.

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“Some just need a little more support to achieve a fulfilling lifestyle.”

Jolene’s carefree attitude has helped her achieve much through a troubled life. She was adopted when her biological parents decided they couldn’t look after her and last Friday marked 12 years since her adoptive mum’s death.

But, with the help of Holloway charity Centre 404, she leads a hectic and independent lifestyle that has even landed her a role at the Olympics opening ceremony.

She said: “I was so excited when I heard it. I won’t be nervous. Acting has given me the confidence to perform in front of large crowds. Last week I gave a speech at The Emirates Stadium. I’ll just give myself a good talking to beforehand.”