Shoshannah Stern is a well known deaf actress who is best known for her roles as Bonnie Richmond in Jericho, Holly Brodeen in Threat Matrix, and Megan Graves on Weeds.
Shoshannah was born in Walnut Creek, California in 1980 and attended the California School for the Deaf, Fremont growing up. American Sign Language was her first language and she knows how to speak and read lips. Shoshannah attended Gallaudet University and currently lives in Hollywood, California with her husband.
Shoshannah has acted in theatre, television, and film and is a true inspiration not only to deaf women, but women everywhere.
Deaf West Theatre
Anne of Green Gables – Anne
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – Gymnasia
The Cat and the Canary – Annabelle
Aladdin – Dancer
Romeo and Juliet – Juliet
The Doctor in Spite of Himself – Martine
The Vagina Monologues – Ensemble
Children of a Lesser God – Sarah
Open Window – Susan
Lie to Me – Sarah (2010)
Jericho – Bonnie Richmond (2008)
Weeds – Megan Graves (2005-2006, 2012)
Threat Matrix – Holly Brodeen (2003)
Off Centre – Rebecca (2001)
Guest Star Roles:
Cold Case – Leah O’Rafferty (2008)
The Division (2003)
ER – Rosemary (2003)
Boston Public (2002)
Providence – Renee (2002)
The Auteur Theory – Founders’ Day Girl (1999)
The Last Shot – Steven’s Girlfriend (2004)
Sweet Nothing in My Ear – Valerie Park (2008)
Adventures of Power – Annie (2008)
The Hammer: The Matt Hamill Story – Kristi (2010)
- Shoshannah is fourth-generation deaf.
- Her character, Bonnie Richmond, on Jericho was not deaf until she auditioned.
- Shoshannah played a victim of rape on The Division opposite Marlee Matlin.
- She is the only deaf actor to ever have a role on two prime-time TV shows at the same time.
- She participated in “Yes, We Can,” the Emmy award winning music video.
- At Deaf West Theatre, the play Children of a Lesser God for which Shoshannah has the starring role has been sold out and extended three times with excellent reviews.
Why is Shoshannah Stern pissed off?
Shoshannah is a huge supporter of DeafHope, an organization whose mission is to end domestic and sexual violence against women. More info at https://deaf-hope.org.
Shoshannah Stern Papers Submitted by Students
Breaking Barriers, One Role at a Time
by Philip Knight | 27 November 2020
In February 2020, Deaf actress Shoshannah Stern made her first appearance on the famous medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, as Dr. Lauren Riley, the show’s first recurring Deaf character. Not only was Ms. Stern, who is a graduate of Gallaudet University, the first recurring Deaf character on Grey’s Anatomy, she was the first one on any primetime network series (Norlian, 1). Shoshannah Stern’s casting as Grey’s Anatomy’s first recurring Deaf character is extremely important because it brings awareness to the Deaf community and also will help normalize Deaf culture.
Shoshannah Stern’s role as Dr. Lauren Riley is important because it brings awareness to the Deaf community. In my experience, if people are not constantly seeing and are reminded of something, they tend to forget about it. There are not a lot of Deaf characters in mainstream movies or television. In fact, there are hardly any. Because hearing people rarely see Deaf characters portrayed on screen, they have a tendency to forget about the people that are not like them. This is why Shoshannah Stern’s casting is so important. It brings a Deaf person to the forefront. “When Stern landed Dr. Riley’s role on Grey’s anatomy, the writing team wanted to ensure an accurate depiction of the doctor, who is also deaf. They actively collaborated with Stern, who was brought into the writer’s room on numerous occasions.” (Norlian, 1) This was new and different because, when Deaf characters do make an appearance on screen, they are usually “forced into a specific mold; they are often overcoming their disability, versus being a multi-dimensional character who happens to be disabled. Those characters are usually written by people without disabilities.” (Norlian, 1) An important note to make here is that “Deaf people who are a part of Deaf culture do not see themselves as handicapped.” (Jay, 54)
Another important part of Ms. Stern’s role is how she communicates within the show. “When discussing how Dr. Riley would communicate, the writer’s room sought Stern’s counsel again. Ultimately, they decided she would use American Sign Language. On the show, Stern’s interpreter appears via iPad.” (Norlian, 1) This was vital since American Sign Language is the natural language of the Deaf community. (Jay, 43) Had Dr. Riley merely read lips or used another form of communication, it would not have been an accurate depiction. Interestingly enough, Ms. Stern was offered an audition to play a patient on Grey’s Anatomy in 2010, which she turned down, knowing she would never be able to play a doctor on the show, which was a dream of hers, if she played a patient. (Norlian, 1)
Shoshannah Stern’s casting is also important because it will help to normalize Deaf culture. When a trait generally considered “different” is presented as normal, it starts to change the mindset of the viewer. Most hearing people do not know very much about Deaf culture or American Sign Language. Now that there is a lead character of a show that 7.1 million people watch (Norlian, 1), maybe Deaf people will start to be seen as normal. Ms. Stern’s role as Dr. Lauren Riley could start to bridge the gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds. Her success in landing this role could open doors for aspiring Deaf actors and actresses. “Not only is there incredible value in stories from a different perspective, there’s also incredible value in hiring people who live that experience for themselves,” says Ms. Stern. (Norlian, 1)
Deaf actress Shoshannah Stern’s casting as Grey’s Anatomy’s first recurring Deaf doctor is extremely important because it brings awareness to the Deaf community and also will help to normalize Deaf culture. Ms. Stern’s role as Dr. Lauren Riley will hopefully start to bridge the gap between the Deaf and hearing worlds, as well as open doors for more Deaf actors and actresses. Ms. Stern’s casting may very well be the first step to a more inclusive world.
Jay, Michelle. Don’t Just Sign, Communicate! A Student’s Guide to ASL and the Deaf Community. Los Angeles, CA: Judea Media, LLC, 2011
Norlian, Addison. “She Turned Down an Audition to Play a Patient on Grey’s Anatomy. A Decade Later, She’s Finally on the Show-As Its First Deaf Doctor.” forbes.com/sites/addisonnorlian/2020/09/08/she-turned-down-an-audition-to-play-a-patient-on-greys-anatomy-a-decade-later-shes-finally-on-the-showas-its-first-deaf-doctor/?sh=a2aa2db2f69b (accessed November 24, 2020)