Zachary Robin Gottsagen (born April 22, 1985) is an actor from Boynton Beach, Florida with Down syndrome.
Family & Early life
He is the son of Shelley Gottsagen and her wife, Navy and Air Force veteran Trish Carland.
Gottsagen’s mom, upon her son’s insistence, had to fight for her son to be admitted in Palm Beach County Public Schools. He was the first child with Down syndrome to be fully included in the Palm Beach County school district.
He is a theatre major graduate of the Dreyfoos School of the Arts.
His favorite show as a child was Even Stevens, the Disney Channel show where Shia LaBeouf began his career. Grease is his favorite movie and he hopes to play Danny Zuko in a reenactment.
Gottsagen studied acting at “Arts 4 All” in Lake Worth Beach and worked at “Alco’s Boynton Cinema.” He attended Zeno Mountain Farm in Los Angeles, a camp for performers with and without disabilities to write, produce and star in original short films. He was the villain in Bulletproof, that was featured in the 2014 documentary profiling Zeno, Becoming Bulletproof. It is also where filmmakers Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz met Gottsagen.
In 2019, Gottsagen starred in The Peanut Butter Falcon with Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson, an adventure film by Roadside Attraction featuring a young man named Zak with Down syndrome who escapes a nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Nilson and Schwartz wrote the film with Gottsagen in mind. They were offered money to exclude Gottsagen from the film, but refused. The film’s production was jeopardized when LaBeouf was arrested in Georgia for disorderly conduct, obstruction, and public drunkenness. It was Gotssagen’s friendship and honesty that brought LaBeouf back in line.
2018: Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award
2019: SXSW Film Festival Audience Award, Narrative Spotlight Award