Were you comfortable asking for what you needed?
I got to set believing that I had to show how easy I am to work with as a deaf person. I was concerned about seeming too fragile. But after working with others, I realized everyone has their own unique set of challenges, and that I need to think about what I need to deliver as an actor, and don’t apologize for it.
What should Hollywood do to be more inclusive of deaf actors?
Hollywood is finally figuring out why it’s so important to have representation, and now it’s more about how. That’s the part that’s more tricky. We need to have deaf writers and creative talent involved in the process of planning film projects from the beginning. When you have deaf experts within and on the stage, from the crew to makeup artists, it feels like that naturally leads to more authentic representation onscreen.
What about for deaf audiences?
Hollywood needs to take the lead on subtitling ads, trailers and those cute little interviews with clips that celebrities do promoting their movies. Another thing I’d like to see improve is the specifics of audio description. It’s not enough to see “music is playing” in a scene — what kind of music is it? Happy? Scary?
Are most movie theaters accessible to people who are deaf?
No! We’re an afterthought in movie theaters, and that needs to change. You have to use a special closed-captioning device to watch subtitling in a theater, and it’s a headache, because most of the time the devices don’t work. Then you have to go back to the front desk and find somebody to help, and by the time they figure it out that it’s not working — that it’s not going to be subtitled at all — the movie’s halfway done. Then you get, “Well, how about I give you a free ticket for the next movie?” And I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” That doesn’t fix the problem.
Do you feel pressure to pave the way for future deaf actors?
I’m not going to lie, I do feel the pressure and stress sometimes, and that can be a burden. I have to remember that it’s not my job to inspire others, or to be a model — but what I do have is the ability to create those connections.
What do you hope people take away from this film?
Growing up, I didn’t dream about becoming an actor. I didn’t see myself on the screen. As a little girl, I thought I was one of only a few deaf people walking on this Earth. Now, as an adult, I’m aware there are at least 466 million deaf people and hard-of-hearing people out there. I’m not the only one. And that’s what it means to have a deaf superhero — a lot more people will see a lot more possibility.