6 of the best movies and series celebrating deaf actors | San Francisco Chronicle

March 13 is the start of National Deaf History Month, a celebration of how deaf and hard of hearing people have made the world a better place. Over the past several years, there has been a miniature revolution in film and television, with deaf actors getting major roles and leading high-profile projects. Here are some worth checking out.

‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’
When “Hawkeye” debuted in 2021, it introduced Maya “Echo” Lopez to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Played by deaf actress Alaqua Cox, the character was an immediate hit and was given her own incredible spin-off earlier this year. “Echo” explored Lopez’s’ Native American roots and her complicated relationship with the crime boss known as Kingpin (Vincent D’onofrio), as well as serving as a new beginning of the long-dormant Netflix series, “Defenders.”
Echo isn’t the only deaf standout in the MCU. “Eternals” introduced Lauren Ridloff as Makkari, an ageless superhero with blinding speed. Though her overall role in the grand family superhero epic was small, she was the first deaf hero to appear on the silver screen. Though maligned by critics on release, “Eternals” gets better on subsequent viewings and is worth a second look for Ridloff’s performance if nothing else.

‘Wonderstruck’ (2017)
These days, actress Millicent Simmonds is the face of the blockbuster horror series “A Quiet Place.” However, before that she was stellar in her debut film, “Wonderstruck.” Directed by Todd Haynes (“May December”), the movie deals with two deaf children that have journeys of self-discovery in the New York Museum of Natural History 50 years apart. Simmonds’ captivating performance made the film an instant critical darling, and can arguably be credited with launching the wave of sign language-friendly films and shows that have followed.

‘The Last of Us’ (2023)
“A Quiet Place” isn’t the only post-apocalyptic horror setting where a deaf character got a decent arc. HBO’s adaptation of the hit video game “The Last of Us” made some welcome changes to the story. One of those was casting deaf actor Keivonn Montreal Woodard as Sam, a child who is trying to escape a brutal police state with his brother Henry (Lamar Johnson). Woodard’s performance earned him the first Emmy Award nomination for a deaf Black actor. Though Sam’s screentime is limited to two episodes, his brief friendship has a deep impact on series lead Ellie (Bella Ramsey).

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