Film Forward

Why John Krasinski Fought To Cast This Young Actress In His New Movie 'A Quiet Place'

"It was really amazing and brought an extra depth to the film."

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John Krasinski's new horror film A Quiet Place is wowing both critics and moviegoers alike, opening to $50 million this past weekend. But there's something else about the film worth celebrating, and that's the actor-director's insistence that a deaf actress be cast as his character's daughter.

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"We always had a deaf character in the script, but John really pushed for them to hire Millicent," the film's co-writer Scott Beck told The Hollywood Reporter. "She came to set and taught everyone sign language. It was really amazing and brought an extra depth to the film."

The movie, which co-stars Krasinski's wife Emily Blunt, follows a family who must keep quiet to save themselves from monsters that use sound to hunt. Because their daughter (played by Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, they know sign language and are able to communicate without speaking aloud.

Simmonds, who previously appeared in Wonderstruck, told Hello Giggles that there was an American Sign Language (ASL) adviser and ASL interpreter on set to help everyone communicate and prepare for scenes. "We would come together and then we would explore the signing — what it would look like and what would be a natural way to respond," she said. "So I helped out a little bit. It was great."

"I always knew I wanted a deaf actress to play this role," Krasinski says in a video on the film's Instagram page, "and Millie is phenomenal."

Krasinski's choice to hire a deaf actress to play a deaf character sets an important example for Hollywood to give more roles to deaf talent. "I want to see more deaf people have the opportunity to become actors," Simmonds told People last year. She also encouraged more people, particularly the parents of deaf children, to learn ASL.

As Carol Padden, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, explained to the New York Times last year, putting more deaf actors on screen is important not only for better representation and increased opportunities but also for authenticity.

"It's hard for hearing actors to look deaf to deaf viewers," Padden said. "For hearing viewers, being 'deaf' is about signing, or seeming silent, but for deaf viewers, it's the entire embodiment of that life: the eyes, the shoulders, the hands, the walking and of course the looking. Until hearing viewers see deaf actors playing them, they may not realize entirely the hard work of embodying an entire different kind of life."

Simmonds' presence on screen offers meaningful representation for young deaf viewers, and we hope more filmmakers take a cue from Krasinski. "If you're disabled or different from what general society deems normal, it's fine," the actress told Interview magazine in November. "There will always be people who won't accept you, but there are others you can find who will. You're never alone."

(H/T: Hello Giggles)

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