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hearing actor in deaf role
CBS if facing backlash after a hearing actor has been cast in a deaf role in the new TV series, “The Stand.” More than 70 members of the deaf entertainment community have signed a letter taking a stand against the series. 

Hearing Actor Cast in Deaf Role

“The Stand” is an adaptation of Stephen King’s book. Hearing actor Henry Zaga has been cast to play deaf character Nick Andros. According to USA Today, a hearing actor also played the character in the 1990’s version of the series.  

Jade Bryan, activist and owner of the #DeafTalent® trademark, took to Twitter in December to express disagreement and disappointment with this decision. The tweet also included images of a letter she and others signed.

“At the time of diversity and inclusion, this cycle of misrepresentation and unequal or non-existent employment opportunities for Deaf professionals in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera, must end,” the letter reads. “This has been happening for decades; enough is enough!” 

Read more: #DeafTalent Q&A with deaf filmmaker Jules Dameron  

Why Casting a Hearing Actor in a Deaf Role is Unacceptable

The disagreement with the casting decision is rooted in the fact that Andros’ character is deaf and signs. Despite this, no deaf actors were even invited to try out for the role. Additionally, no one from the deaf community was even consulted. This comes after CBS signed an agreement in June 2020 stating it would make efforts to be more aware of representation and inclusion. 

“The selection of the hearing actor to portray Nick Andros in ‘The Stand’ is not acceptable,” the letter reads. “The decision was made without respect to and for deaf professionals, union and non-union alike. There was no acknowledgment given to the psyche of a deaf character; being deaf is more than just not hearing. We will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access. We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the minseries on CBS All Access with our deaf community, signing community, friends and family of deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide.”

“The selection of the hearing actor to portray Nick Andros in ‘The Stand’ is not acceptable.”

The letter calls for more inclusion not only in acting roles, but in all aspects of the entertainment industry. 

“It is time for industry professionals to create opportunities for deaf talent to work on the set, in front of and behind the camera, in the writing rooms, and to sit on creative teams when there is a deaf character involved in the storyline,” the letter continues. “Our voice is a sign of the times.”

Support From the Deaf Community

According to USA Today, CBS did meet with members of the industry after this tweet. No information about that meeting has been released to the public.

Among those who signed in support were actors Antoinette Abbamonte (known for “The New Normal,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), James Caverly (“Chicago Med,” “A Bennett Song Holiday”), Dickie Hearts (“Tales of the City,” “Grace & Frankie”) and Andrew Morrill (who has appeared in theatrical productions Waiting for Godot and Alice in Wonderland), as well as director Jules Dameron (“Reverse Polarity”).

This is not the first instance of frustration for the deaf community in recent years. In 2018, there was much controversy surrounding the film “The Silence,” in which a hearing actor was also cast in a deaf role. The film had many similarities to “A Quiet Place.” However, A Quiet Place starred deaf actress Millicent Simmonds, which created an element of authenticity to the film. 

Read more: Deaf community speaks out against new film ‘The Silence’

“We always had a deaf character in the script ‘A Quiet Place,” but John really pushed for them to hire Millicent,” screenwriter Scott Beck said. “She came to set and taught everyone sign language. It was really amazing and brought an extra depth to the film.”

Read more: How to tell your deaf story for the world to see and hear

Beth Leipholtz
Author Details
Beth is a Minnesotan mama to a little boy with profound hearing loss. Outside of writing, she is a full-time web designer and photographer with a passion for CrossFit and small-town living. Visit her personal blog here: www.thescooponcoop.com
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Beth Leipholtz
Beth is a Minnesotan mama to a little boy with profound hearing loss. Outside of writing, she is a full-time web designer and photographer with a passion for CrossFit and small-town living. Visit her personal blog here: www.thescooponcoop.com