Why Casting a Deaf Actor in “A Quiet Place” Signals a Shift

July 31, 2018 8:02 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

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Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures
‘A Quiet Place’

If you have not seen “A Quiet Place” yet, you may be missing out on an important moment in time for the deaf community. In this SciFi world where silence is key, it was important to the star and director, John Krasinski, to cast the role of his on-screen daughter with an actress who was actually deaf. According to the Hollywood Reporter he believed that casting choice “brought an extra depth to the film.”

Krasinski pushed for Millicent Simmonds to be cast in an attempt to keep the role as authentic as possible. And it paid off. According to Box Office Mojo, “A Quiet Place” made an estimated $46 million just during its debut. In an op-ed, Simmonds details her experience playing Regan and being a part of the break out hit. “The response to Regan has been pretty overwhelming,” she said, “I love that people love this movie.” This incredible love that people have for her character and for the film may stem from the open communication between Krasinski, Simmonds, and the entire cast and crew.

In an op-ed Simmonds talks about how, “[Krasinski] was always asking me what I thought or what my experience was. For a director I think it’s important to understand everyone’s perspective—and John did that.” Not only was there open communication between the director and actress, but according to one of the screen writers Scott Beck, “[Simmonds] came to set and taught everyone sign language.” So not only was Regan’s perspective being witnessed on screen, but the set was one of inclusion and growth!

So why is this casting choice such a big deal for the film industry and for the deaf community? This is about more than just diversifying the actors on the big screen. This is about a director and an actress showing the world that the deaf experience is no different from anyone else. The film really boils down to a family drama about the growing pains of a strong willed daughter and each family member trying to figure out his or her place in a changing world. Sometimes they work together, sometimes things fall apart, and ultimately Regan’s deafness does not change their bizarre environment.

Going even further, not only is Simmonds’s character not a part of the problem, her deafness is ultimately part of the solution. In her op-ed, Simmonds writes, “I think for this story it was important to show Regan’s deafness as an advantage for this family. For me personally, I think it was important to show a hearing family that all signed with their family member because many families that have deaf kids never learn sign language.” For Simmonds it was about more than just showing a deaf character, but showing this character had agency in the film, that this character had a hearing family that was a part of her experience, and that people should not be afraid to learn American Sign Language (ASL).

There is a fundamental shift happening in Hollywood that indicates that the stories that have been told and the characters that have been shown are not enough anymore. Audiences across the country and across the world crave to see different experiences across the board. If “A Quiet Place” shows anything, it is that we need to see more actors with hearing issues on-screen and we need directors to use their power to make that happen. The world needs to see how similar we all really are after all.

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