Prince Amponsah: actor, social work student at Ryerson University

"I couldn’t see myself going back to acting because I didn’t feel I had a place there. You don’t see a lot of people who look like me on the stage or on the screen, and sometimes you need those kinds of role models – to see yourself, to feel like you can be a part of it."


Four years ago, I was living at Queen and Spadina, just living the city life, working at American Apparel. It was an interesting time because I had taken a little break from acting just before the fire happened. I got back with my agent and I was going to get new headshots and try for TV and film. 

Fortunately, I don’t remember anything from the fire, which is a good thing because I’d probably have nightmares. I was living with very close friends, and one especially good friend got me out of there just in time, before it got worse.

I woke up on a hospital bed, all bandaged up, looking like a mummy and not realizing how severe the accident had been. I’d had a tracheotomy, so I had a huge tube in my mouth. As soon as it came out, I was trying to mouth that I wanted a paper and pen. And I guess they told me a bunch of times that there was no use for that, right? But it just wasn’t coming across, partly because of the medication and partly because I was in denial as to how severe it was.

But soon I had enough energy to see what had happened to me. 

Since 2012, I’ve I had 30 to 40 surgeries, skin grafts and such. I had to relearn how to walk. That was pretty painful because my skin was still healing, so every movement, every step, was like skin rubbing against a band-aid. It was like a terrible, terrible rug burn. 

Once I got through that, the exercises involved getting on a treadmill, doing stretches, light presses, strengthening my legs, my waist and my abdomen. Balance is very important, especially when you don’t have arms. I’m getting new prosthetics soon, so I’ll be learning how to use them, doing exercises like how to hold utensils.

I couldn’t even comprehend what to do during the time I was recovering. I couldn’t see myself going back to acting because I didn’t feel I had a place there. You don’t see a lot of people who look like me on the stage or on the screen, and sometimes you need those kinds of role models – to see yourself, to feel like you can be a part of it. And it can be very superficial as well, right?

But I ran into my friend, Harrison, who’s a director, and he really wanted to throw me in a play. It was just at the right time. I’d just been getting back out again, seeing friends and feeling good. 

All the fear came in: “Oh gosh, what will people think of me? Will I be any good?” I hadn’t had those thoughts in a long while.

How I overcame my fear? I just did it, kinda went through all those weird feelings, and then it got easier. And then it became fun. And then it was just really, really fun by the end of it.

I am so glad I did it.

See Amponsah in a remount of S H E E T S, by Salvatore Antonio, at the Theatre Centre from March 20 to April 9. There will be nudity.


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See last year’s Body Issue here.

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