A GAME-CHANGING TALENT
‘A QUIET PLACE’S’ MILLICENT SIMMONDS REMINDS THE WORLD THAT DEAF ACTORS CAN SPEAK VOLUMES WITHOUT UTTERING A WORD
By Chaya Mezikofsky
At age 15, Millicent Simmonds has already starred in two critically acclaimed feature films — Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck,” and “A Quiet Place,” John Krasinski’s post-apocalyptic horror movie.
A film career wasn’t something she or her family imagined for her growing up in the sleepy suburb of Bountiful, Utah. But at her first-ever movie audition, she made Haynes cry, and her career skyrocketed.
“He said immediately that he knew I was the person he wanted to cast for that part,” said Simmonds. “It made me feel really special. I was still a new person on the scene.”
Krasinski, who directed her and played her father in “A Quiet Place,” says of the actress: “Special just doesn’t cover it. Rarely in my career have I worked with someone more talented and professional than Millie,” he says. “As an actress she is dialed into something pure, some kind of truth that very few people are able to access, especially with such ease. I’m convinced she’s not actually from this earth. I firmly believe this girl is an actual angel.”
If she’s an acting prodigy, perhaps it’s because she’s always been a storyteller and a master at communicating through emotion and expression without spoken words.
“In third or fourth grade, I loved to sign stories and monologues,” says Simmonds, who became deaf around 12 months old. Later her high school drama teacher asked her parents if she could join the drama club. They said yes, and soon she was hooked.
“Wonderstruck” and “A Quiet Place” followed — and accolades, too: The Los Angeles Film Festival recognized her at its New Wave brunch, co-sponsored by Easterseals, as one of six breakout artists who deserve industry recognition.
Next, Simmonds will have recurring roles on Disney Channel’s “Andi Mack” and Sundance Now’s “This Close,” created by actors Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman, both deaf.
“This is the first time I’ll be acting with other deaf actors professionally,” Simmonds says. “It’s a very exciting experience.” And there is that sequel to “A Quiet Place” somewhere down the road.
At home, she says, she lives “a pretty calm life” with her family in Utah. Her heroes? Her mother and father. She does chores and she listens to music with her cochlear implant; Father John Misty and Red Hot Chili Peppers are favorites. While “Wonderstruck” took her to Cannes, Simmonds also hopes to travel more (Egypt, for the Pyramids) and, someday, time permitting, attend college.
“My advice for young people is to just be yourself,” she says. “There’s no pressure. Do what you want to do. And if you want to do something, then go after it and make it happen.”