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Millicent Simmonds to star in new film, ‘Helen and Teacher’

Helen & Teacher
Millicent Simmonds, the 18-year-old American actress and deaf activist, will play Helen Keller in a new feature film, Helen & Teacher.

Rachel Brosnahan, who played “Midge” Maisel in the Amazon Prime Video period comedy series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, will play her teacher Annie Sullivan.

Helen & Teacher

Helen & Teacher is based on an original screenplay by Laetitia Mikles and Wash Westmoreland, in consultation with a team at Helen Keller National Center for Youth and Adults. Westmoreland (Still Alice) is also the director.

The film will be set in the early 1900s. The plot, as described by Deadline, “will follow Keller’s tumultuous time at Radcliffe College of Harvard University when her rapidly expanding worldview and sexual awakening brings her into direct conflict with the more conservative Sullivan. When Ms. Sullivan is courted by the young and brilliant publisher, John Macy, tensions escalate between the two women threatening the bonds of their friendship.”

“Today, when some TikTok threads dispute Helen Keller’s achievements and even her existence, it is time for a film that shows her relevance, her brilliance, and her unbreakable spirit,” Westmoreland told Deadline. (The TikTok controversy surrounding Helen Keller may have started as a joke, but as The Guardian article says, there are teenagers who don’t believe that Helen Keller was deaf-blind and able to accomplish all that she did.)

Cornerstone is handling international sales and distribution. Cornerstone’s Alison Thompson and Mark Gooder told Deadline that they’re looking forward to reintroducing one of the most famous teacher-student relationships in modern history.

“The lifelong work on disability rights by these two remarkable women paved the way for future generations,” they said.

The Actresses in Helen & Teacher

Rachel Brosnahan is best known for her starring role in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf, was in A Quiet Place and its sequel. She is also appearing in a Spring 2022 television series called True Biz, based on deaf activist Sara Novic’s novel.

Read more: TV series ‘True Biz’ will star deaf actress Millicent Simmonds

Simmonds is actually a distant cousin of Helen Keller, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Variety reported that most adaptations of Helen Keller’s story have featured non-deaf actors, so the fact that Simmonds is deaf is a step forward. Despite this, there’s been some controversy that the actor playing Helen Keller isn’t deaf-blind, because someone who is deaf is not deaf-blind. A deaf-blind person playing Helen Keller would make it more authentic, people in the deaf-blind community say, and give them more representation and hiring opportunities.

Production will begin in the summer of 2022.

Author Details
Lisa A. Goldstein has a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley, a digital hearing aid, a cochlear implant, and plenty of deaf-friendly communication equipment. She spends her days juggling life as a freelance journalist, wife, and mother of two in Pittsburgh, PA.