Joan Considine Johnson – Writer (2006-2007)
How It Can Work When It Works
I’ve read many of the other opinion pieces and agree with a lot that’s already been said: It’s a tough business. There are far more many actors than there are jobs. There’s still a long way to go.
Tough truth. Big challenges. So allow me to share a success story or two.
‘Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye’ was a series on the PAX network, inspired by a profoundly deaf woman who worked for the F.B.I. in surveillance, reading the bad guys’ lips in situations where the F.B.I. couldn’t get any audio equipment close enough for the job. The character of Sue Thomas was played by Deanne Bray who is severely deaf and an amazing actor.
Some powers-that-be didn’t ‘get’ why you’d cast a Deaf actor in this role. Dave Alan Johnson and Gary R. Johnson, the creators of the series, had to fight to cast her, finally stating they would not make the series without her. The series was made, with Deanne in the lead.
Being true to the real Sue Thomas, the character is oral, signs, has great lip-reading ability and had one of the first service dogs for the deaf; hers is one story. Throughout the 57 episodes, we were able to tell the stories of many other Deaf/deaf/Hard of hearing characters as well – and cast a variety of talented Deaf/deaf/Hard of Hearing actors of different ethnicities and ages (3-80s). Some stories came from experiences of the deaf community; other stories had nothing to do with the characters’ deafness.
We also employed Deaf/deaf/Hard of Hearing extras. Behind the scenes, we had ASL Masters and interpreters to aid both the deaf and hearing on set. We did our research, we had great resources and support – but did we do it perfectly? No. There was a learning curve. There was education, communication and clarification. We made mistakes; we tried to learn from them.
Here’s the thing: We’re not special and we’re not alone. We and others are making choices to tell the best stories with the best actors. It takes hard work, tenacity and perseverance on all our parts. As the real Sue Thomas says, “When God closes one door, He opens another. It’s those darn hallways you have to watch out for.” As long as we all choose to continue to go down those hallways, no matter what obstacles or challenges we find in them, we will make a difference.
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