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TV

How Dylan Alcott wants to shake up television

Why stop at being a decorated athlete and TV host? The TV WEEK Logie award winner has set his sights on acting.

By Maddison Hockey
When TV WEEK chatted to Dylan Alcott last year, the gold-medal-winning Paralympian was all over our screens. Hosting Invictus Games Today alongside Chris Bath and Anthony "Lehmo" Lehmann – and buzzing with excitement over his latest project, ABC's live music show The Set – Dylan joked that his budding television career surely warranted a TV WEEK Logie Award.
"It's all happening for me! Can you get me nominated for a Logie?" the 28-year-old athlete asked with a laugh.
What he never imagined, however, was that a few months later, he would take home the coveted statuette for the Graham Kennedy Award For Most Popular New Talent.
"Even on the night [of the awards], I thought, 'I'm not going to win – it's going to be someone from Home And Away,'" Dylan recalls. "I still laugh when I see it on my table because I still can't believe it."

Show Stopper

Dylan presented at the 2019 TV WEEK Logies alongside Grant Denyer.
It may have come as a shock to the wheelchair basketball and tennis champion, but as he took the stage to receive the honour, he proved once again just how deserving he was with an impassioned acceptance speech.
"I've been in a wheelchair my whole life and I used to absolutely hate it," Dylan said to a rapt audience. "One of the reasons I hated it was because when I turned on the TV, I never saw anybody like me."
Taking the opportunity to advocate for greater diversity and normalisation of disability on Australian television, Dylan's shining moment was a standout of the evening and a talking point for days to come.
"I got a bit emotional up there," Dylan says now. "I loved the opportunity to say what I said, and that speech was shared a million times online."

The New Normal

"I still can't believe it" Dylan says of his Logie win.
Dylan – for whom an operation to remove a tumour around his spinal cord, performed days after he was born, left him a paraplegic – made it his mission at a young age to break down the barriers and stereotypes associated with disability, particularly on television.
"I might have been five years old when I started watching TV, and I asked my mum, 'Where are people like me?'" Dylan says.
"It became my goal to get on TV – not only because I enjoy sharing stories," he explains, "but to really shake it up and say, 'Look how talented, normal and funny people with a disability can be.'"
At just 18, Dylan won gold at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games for wheelchair basketball before making the switch to tennis. Since then, he's won the Australian Open five times, Wimbledon and the French and US Opens.
It was his successful tennis career that introduced him to the world of TV presenting, but it wasn't without a few hiccups. Dylan explains they're typical of the "invisible barriers" often placed in front of people with disabilities.
"When I first started working on TV at the tennis, they said to me, 'If you're going to interview Rafael Nadal, how will you do it?' he recalls. "I said, 'I'm going to put a microphone to his mouth, the same way anyone else would.' And everyone realised it wasn't that hard."

All Aces

It's been (tennis) balls to the wall ever since for Dylan, who just days after winning his Logie headed to England to take out the first Wimbledon wheelchair title in both the doubles and singles divisions.
Amid it all, he's also found the time for his other passion – live music – and the show that earnt Dylan his Logie nod, The Set.
Carrying on from ABC music shows such as Countdown and Recovery, The Set brings Australian talent and live performances to a new generation.
"The show really touches places that, apart from the local rock band, might not get live music very often or big names coming to town," Dylan says.
Buzzing over the return of the show, Dylan explains it's not just the positive response from fans that has contributed to its success, but also the feedback from the music industry and from the artists themselves.
"Amy Shark [the Australian indie singer] doesn't need to do our show – she could sell out Margaret Court Arena [the 7500-seat stadium in Melbourne]," he says, adding with pride, "But she wants to, and that's because she didn't have a show like this."

The Next Step

Dylan with co-host, Linda, on The Set.
Despite a hectic schedule preparing for the 2020 Paralympics, to be held in Tokyo in August and September next year, and running his own charity – the Dylan Alcott Foundation – Dylan hasn't ruled out making the leap from presenting into a scripted television series.
"I've definitely considered it," Dylan reveals. "There needs to be examples of people with disabilities just being normal. That breaks down barriers.
"Why can't Brad Pitt be in a wheelchair? That's the example I give people." Then, with his trademark humour, he waits a beat before adding, "Not that I think I'm Brad Pitt!"
The Set airs Wednesday, 9:55pm on ABC and ABC iview.

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