Deaf Actress Cast in ‘A Quiet Place’ is a Step Forward for Hollywood

John Krasinski’s almost-silent supernatural horror A Quiet Place has been celebrated for its casting decision in featuring deaf actress Millicent Simmonds to play a deaf character role in the new movie.

John Krasinski, director and cast-member in A Quiet Place, recently commented on the criticisms of the film industry and his decision to cast Simmonds in his film in an interview with Ari Drew for Bloody Disgusting at SXSW:

“It was non-negotiable for me to hire a deaf actress, but I didn’t know I was going to get so lucky to have not only a deaf actress, but the most beautiful human being who would walk me through the experience and be honest about what it meant to be deaf. Simmonds was not intimidated. She would tell me, ‘This is what I would do in the moment and this is what a fight would look like with my dad.’”

Horror film Hush was criticised for its casting choices previously. Kate Siegel, a non-deaf actress, was cast in the main role of Maddie, a deaf writer, who lives a calm and solitary life in the woods, but is forced to fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window one night. A critique of Hush in the blog The Limping Chicken by Rebecca Anne-Withey said:

“All of you directors out there, if you want authenticity and real deaf quirkiness and mannerisms in your movies – choose a deaf actor. Or at least give them the chance to audition.”

Actress Millicent Simmonds, A Quiet Place (2018)

In a feature on the young actress, The New York Times wrote:

“Millicent Simmonds doesn’t like scary movies, but it’s not because they frighten her. The cawing of birds, the heavy breathing on the phone, the dun-dun-dun-dun of the approaching shark — these are largely lost on Ms. Simmonds, the 14-year-old ingénue who has just made her debut in Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck. She is deaf.”

In A Quiet Place, for a lot of the film, the family communicates in American Sign Language, meaning the cast had to learn it for the film. Krasinski said in his interview that Millicent Simmonds was critical to that learning process:

“Learning ASL for this was so amazing because, yes, it would be great for the movie, and, yes, it was a really cool thing to show on-screen… but for us it was so much more than that because we had Millie.

“Having her… it was almost like she was my parent because as I was trying to sign to her, she had the most wide-open face and was so appreciative that we were even giving it a shot. And just saying, like, ‘That’s not quite it, do it again.’ It was like my best friend, mom, sister, everything, was teaching me ASL! It was such a beautiful moment.”

A Quiet Place will be out in cinemas on April 5th 2018.


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