John Krasinski on the Importance of Casting Deaf Actress Millicent Simmonds in ‘A Quiet Place’
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“It was non-negotiable for me to hire a deaf actress.”
The film industry has recently come under fire for representing certain types of individuals on screen but not actually hiring actors who are living those realities, including the recent horror film Hush; Kate Siegel, a non-deaf actress, was cast in the role of Maddie, a deaf writer. “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,” Rebecca Anne-Withey wrote on her blog The Limping Chicken, specifically discussing Hush.
Director John Krasinski will not be getting the same kinds of criticisms for his A Quiet Place, a monster movie that is earning rave reviews out of SXSW this year. Krasinski cast Utah-born actress Millicent Simmonds in the role of his on-screen daughter in the film. Simmonds’ character is deaf, and so too is Simmonds herself.
Our own Ari Drew spoke with Krasinski at SXSW for a full interview we’ll be posting tomorrow here on BD. In it, Krasinski talks about the importance of casting Simmonds.
“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,” Krasinski told us. “[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.’ It was so great.”
In A Quiet Place, the family communicates via American Sign Language for much of its runtime, and Krasinski says that Simmonds was pivotal to that aspect of the film.
“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,” he told us. “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.”
Krasinski continued, “So I think that’s why it plays so well because she was […] such a beautiful guide through the entire experience of what this movie was.”
A Quiet Place arrives in theaters on April 6.