As a deaf actor who has joined “New Amsterdam,” Sandra Mae Frank is a role model, both professionally and personally. According to a feature on Sandra Mae Frank by Playbill, the actor was born premature; three months early. She was born with hearing, but at the age of three, her father noticed that she was experiencing hearing loss. Soon after, she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf. Frank and her parents learned American Sign Language (ASL). She went to a mainstream school before graduating from the Kentucky School for the Deaf. After that, she attended Gallaudet University (a private school for deaf and hard of hearing students) where she earned a degree in theater.
Now an accomplished stage and film actor, Frank is known for her roles in “Spring Awakening” (on Broadway), “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” “Entangled,” “Switched at Birth,” among others. She is also the production manager of Deaf Austin Theatre, a nonprofit company in Austin, Texas. Frank has won several acting awards. She has also been involved in the World Deaf Cinema Festival.
In an article in The Washington Post, Frank wrote, “There are many deaf actors just like me, working hard to be seen. It fills my heart to see how we are finally being recognized. We are here to stay, and people should get ready to see us at auditions everywhere. We will show how we can bring the beauty of deaf culture to a character, but more importantly, how we can bring our abilities as actors. We are actors; we just happen to be deaf.”
“There are many deaf actors just like me, working hard to be seen.”
“New Amsterdam” is a hospital drama based on Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital, a memoir from Eric Manheimer, former medical director of Bellevue hospital.
The book tells the stories of 12 very different patients, including Wall Street tycoons, dignitaries from the UN, illegal immigrants, prisoners at Riker’s Island, and Manheimer himself after he was diagnosed with cancer.
Created by David Schulner, the first episode of New Amsterdam premiered on NBC in September 2018. It introduced us to the brilliant, charming Dr Max Goodwin, the new medical director at America’s oldest public hospital. Dynamic, driven Max is on a mission to breathe new life into this understaffed, underfunded, and underappreciated hospital.
View this post on Instagram
TVLine quotes the show’s creator David Schulner as saying, “Young, talented and self-assured, Dr. Wilder is one of the few deaf surgeons in New York City. She’s also one of the best surgeons, period. But when Max tries to lure her to New Amsterdam, she refuses to join his team. Many times, in fact. In high demand all over the country, what’s it going to take to get Dr. Wilder to practice at this fabled hospital? And who is she replacing? These are just a few of the questions that will be answered in the season premiere.”
Advocacy nonprofit organization RespectAbility tells how during the summer of 2020, Executive Producer David Schulner and Casting Director David Caparelliotis spoke to a group of 30 disabled individuals working behind the camera. They were taking part in their 2020 Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities. The conversation was about how “New Amsterdam” is a case study in best practice of on-camera representation.
They quote Caparelliotis as saying, “No roles were defined before we saw actors for them,” explaining that “actors would define the roles.” Schulner explained, “People with disabilities can only make our show – and any show – stronger, more exciting, showing different points of view. It’s essential to art and it’s essential to our society.”
“People with disabilities can only make our show – and any show – stronger, more exciting, showing different points of view. It’s essential to art and it’s essential to our society.”
Season 4 premieres on Tuesday, September 21 at 10/9c on NBC.
And, there’s more good news. In January 2020, “New Amsterdam” was picked up for three more seasons, which means that Season 5 is guaranteed!