Deaf actress Millicent Simmonds discusses her acting career, why representation matters, facing barriers in life, and more.
What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in acting?
I don’t think I ever pursued a career in acting. I would say that I fell into a career in acting. I attended a Deaf school when I was younger and was involved in the drama club. I loved performing on stage and travelling with my friends. We mostly performed Shakespeare plays. It wasn’t until my experience with Wonderstruck and filming in New York that I really believed I could do this professionally. I feel so lucky and it still doesn’t feel real that I get to do this.
Why is representation of the Deaf community in film and television so important, especially for youth?
I never saw myself on screen. I never saw my language on screen. I think that’s a huge reason why I never considered pursuing a career in acting. I just assumed that kids like me couldn’t be on television or in the movies. It’s important to me for kids to be able to see themselves represented on screen and to know that they exist and that their stories and their experiences as a Deaf person are valid.
How has medical technology impacted your day-to-day life as a member of the Deaf community?
I can’t speak for everyone in the Deaf community. Everyone has a different opinion and approach to being Deaf. I can only speak about my experience, and for me, medical technology allows me to enjoy sounds and music that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy. Sometimes I enjoy hearing and sometimes I enjoy the silence. There are advantages to both. Sign language gives me the freedom to experience both worlds.
What advice can you offer to youth facing barriers in life?
Don’t listen to people who try to tell you what you’re capable or not capable of. If you enjoy something, dedicate time every single day to learning more about what you want to do. The more you learn about it and the more experience you have, the better prepared you are. Silence the voices telling you that you can’t, even if it’s sometimes your own. Most importantly, have fun. If you’re not enjoying it, it’s not for you.
What should we look out for from you in the future?
I’m really excited about acting in and producing a TV series called True Biz based on the book by Deaf author Sara Nović. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and, I think, unlike anything we’ve seen before.