Deaf Actors protested a hearing actor playing a Deaf role

deaf actors protest hearing actor plays a deaf character

A new limited event series, based on Stephan King’s novel, is currently airing on CBS. The miniseries sparked a protest from the Deaf communities, especially Deaf actors, because they cast a hearing actor to play a Deaf character. The character, Nick Andros, is Deaf and sign American Sign Language (ASL).

“Not one Deaf professional actor was called in to audition for the role,” Deaf Austin Theatre wrote, “At the time of diversity and inclusion, this cycle of misrepresentation and unequal or non-existent employment opportunities for Deaf professionals in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera, must end. This has been happening for decades; enough is enough!”

This common practice continued for decades. Nyle DiMarco, a Deaf actor, explains why casting Hearing actors for Deaf roles is problematic and said, “The conversation seems to always link back to diversity and inclusion, specifically surrounding race and gender, but disability as being a part of diversity seems to take a backseat.”

Countless films cast hearing actors for Deaf roles, such as Hush (2016), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968), The Silence (2019 film), Listen to Your Heart (2010), After the Silence (1996), The Tribes (a play), and more.

Although rarely happened, an actress like Jameela Jamil turned down a recent offer to portray a Deaf woman. “…it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take that role and they should find a brilliant deaf woman to play that role. I think you have to make those choices and not be too greedy and make space rather than take space. … I don’t want to be part of erasure.”

The movies that do include Deaf actors in the media are: Switched at Birth, Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God (1986), Chella Man in DC Universe’s Titans, Millicent Simmonds in A Quiet Place and Wonderstruck, Lauren Ridloff & Angel Theory in The Walking Dead, CJ Jones in Baby Driver (2017), and more.

Stand and support Deaf actors and to stop this practice of erasure. Another way that you can be supportive is to learn more about Deaf Culture and learn American Sign Language!

Take our American Sign Language classes online and start learning today!

Our Start ASL 1-3 levels courses allow you to learn ASL at your own pace and provide Certification of Completion. If you’re looking for free ASL lessons, we also offer them with no strings attached!


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