Spring 2022

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62 SAGAFTRA | Spring 2022 | WHAT SET YOU ON THE PATH TO BEING AN ACTOR? When was younger, would watch a lot of film and TV and cartoons lie om and er y. With] om and er y, you had cat and mouse without dialogue, so was ale to areciate it as a deaf audience member. e next day, I'd have to take the bus to school; it was almost a two-hour commute. We'd have 15 young deaf kids on the bus, and for the hour and a half, I would tell stories; it was like theater on the road. I would reenact om and Jery , and they were my audience members. I'd stand in the aisle. I'd do Tom, I'd do Jerry, the chase scenes, the tongue sticking out, the punches and all of that, and the kids' eyes just lit up. I enjoyed it, and I found in that moment, it was fun, and so the next night, I'd watch a new episode. And the next day on the bus, I'd do om and Jery again. It was almost like studying to gure out how to become a storyteller, and I found I truly enjoyed it. When I saw their eyes light up and I saw the laughter, it felt so good, and it was such an important moment, because I found that I had a passion for acting. So that led me to the theater stage, which of course led me here today. IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL SUCCESSFUL FILMS THAT PLACED DEAF CHARACTERS AT THE CENTER OF THE STORY, INCLUDING A QUIET PLACE AND SOUND OF METAL, AND LAUREN RIDLOFF IN THE WALKING DEAD AND IN ETERNALS. DO YOU THINK THESE PROJECTS AND THE SUCCESS OF CODA ARE SIGNS THAT THE INDUSTRY IS INTERESTED IN FULLER REPRESENTATIONS OF DEAF CHARACTERS AND TELLING THOSE STORIES? eah, elieve that DA has really een one of the most imactful films in uite a while Theres een a real cultural transformation, and it really shows what real eaf culture is lie In these other lms, you tend to have just one deaf role or actor who happens to be deaf. But in our lm, we had an ensemble deaf cast of three actors — mother, father and son — that used ASL as their language to communicate. So you'd see this real, conversational sign language. And, of course, a lot of F-bombs and vulgarities too. And, nally, it gave folks 30 seconds of silence to really experience and have an inside view to our deaf world and Deaf culture. Our lm is impactful, and I am starting to see more doors open. I'm starting to see more hearts and minds open. I'm seeing more diverse stories being told. WHAT DOES AUTHENTIC DEAF REPRESENTATION ONSCREEN LOOK LIKE TO YOU? feel lie we just have this instinct ecause we grow u in the eaf culture t's just inside of us. We're orn that way we grew u that way all of our lives A hearing actor really can't play deaf. You have to have that lived eerience, and you have to have swum in that dee lae, that ocean of eaf culture, to really immerse yourself in it. Some deaf people really struggle to nd their identity. It depends on the individual and how attached you are to Deaf culture, so I think authenticity means raw. It means real. So many hearing actors have played disabled [people], hoping to get nominations, and that's not authentic. ere's always controversy as an actor that you should be able to portray anyone in anything, even if you don't have that lived experience, [but] a white actor can't play a person of color — or shouldn't anyway — and it's the same for a non-deaf actor in a deaf role. is authenticity is communicated with eye contact. You have to walk and talk and use your eyes. We use our eyes to communicate; we're visual community storytellers. I've seen this real stiness when hearing actors play deaf, and we just don't buy it; we can tell it's inauthentic. HOW DO YOU FEEL A MOVIE LIKE CODA HELPS DEEPEN UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEAF COMMUNITY TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC? thin it increased awareness of the deaf community as well as As, children of deaf adults. My real-life daughter is a A ve seen what As have een through and their journey, because they have to traverse these two worlds Theres From left, Emilia Jones, Daniel Durant, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur and Eugenio Derbez hold their trophies for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for CODA at the -th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. TODD WILLIA M SO NSHUT TER S TO CK

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