How a deaf girl with no acting experience ended up as the star in ‘Wonderstruck’

Summarized by Rachel Cain, staff writer

Millicent Simmonds went from acting in school plays to starring as Rose in the upcoming Todd Hynes movie, “Wonderstruck.” The movie is based on a Brian Selznick book about two runaway children, Ben and Rose, who are deaf. Although Ben’s and Rose’s narratives are 50 years apart, they eventually intersect when the two meet in New York. Simmonds, who is also deaf, read the book years ago and “fell in love with it.”

“I loved the story. I loved the pictures. And it was a different way of telling a story that I thought was really cool,” she said in ASL. “And at first I thought, You know, the writer has to be deaf. They couldn’t possibly understand the life of a deaf person.” She later discovered that Selznick is hearing, but had conducted research and talked with his deaf friends in preparation for the book.

Simmonds said there are multiple other deaf actors in the film, including a number of extras.

Simmonds also spoke in favor of learning ASL: “There’s still a belief that children should not learn sign language and that if they learn to lip read and speak, that they’ll be able to become more like hearing people, more assimilated. And I see many of my friends who can’t communicate with their parents and I see their frustrations, their sadness… So I hope what this movie shows is that parents should learn sign language. And if you have deaf children you should learn sign language so you can communicate with your children.”

You can read the full story and watch the full interview here.

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