First Nations actor in Champions movie says nothing can stop dream from coming true

From the special olympics to making it on the big screen, First Nations actor Tom Sinclair says playing a major role in the upcoming basketball film Champions has been a roller coaster of a dream.

“I’m honoured to represent the Aboriginal community on the big screen,” said the 26-year-old from his home in Oakbank, Man. “If you dream it, you can make it happen and I always thought, I have disabilities and everything but that won’t stop me to make my dreams come true.”

Directed by Bobby Farrelly and starring Woody Harrelson, Champions is the story of a former minor league basketball coach who, after a series of missteps, is ordered by the court to manage a team of disabled players.

He soon realizes that despite his doubts, together, the team can go further than they ever imagined.

This a truth for Sinclair who was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He played basketball in the special olympics in high school. His character on the film is Blair on the basketball team.

“We need to be represented in a way that is appropriate,” Sinclair said. “There’s a lot of things out there that people with disabilities ‘can’t do this’ or ‘can’t do that’ but we are normal people too. We can do whatever you guys can do too.”

As the only Indigenous actor in the cast, he says Blair is very much like himself.

“He’s outgoing, he’s fun to be around, he’s very friendly, he’s funny, he’s just always the time of the party,” Sinclair told APTN News while wearing a red sweater with a medicine wheel printed on the front; the same worn by ‘Blair’ in the movie.

Jerry Sinclair (left) Charlie Guimond and Tom Sinclair (right) outside their home in Oakbank. Photo: Tamara Pimentel/APTN.

In the film’s production notes, Farrelly says Sinclair is a “real role model” and easy going.

“If we needed somebody to throw a line to, we’d throw it to Tom, because he’s just so quick and would always go with it. He’s also an aspiring filmmaker and so Bobby let him call ‘action,’ which was fun,” the notes read.

Sinclair just got back from the Champions premiere in New York City, an experience he’s been waiting for since watching Jim Carey on the big screen as a child.

“The first movie that I watched was the Jim Carey Grinch movie and that really inspired me,” he said. “I used to watch the DVD extras over and over and over again to see how movies were made.”

And while the red-carpet experience met his expectations, he says re-connecting with friends “meant the world.”

“Being with my co-stars again and meeting them since we were filming almost two years ago and seeing them and talking with them, laughing, getting to know them all over again and just making our friendship stronger,” he said.

The film has been an opportunity for Sinclair’s entire family. His three siblings Robin, Jerry and Charlie Guimond played on opposing teams throughout the film.

“It was really fun,” said Jerry, “You’ll see me in the movie taking a couple of shots in the movie and playing against my brother.”

“I’m so happy for him because he made a good success being casted as one of the main characters,” Guimond said.

Now, Sinclair said he is working on some short films of his own but hopes to see himself in more productions in the future.

“I would love to act in more films and represent the Aboriginal community.”

Champions will be in theatres March 10, 2023.