Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Deaf actor Shoshannah Stern gives insight into her career

A guest post by Shoshannah Stern (pictured) at Women & Hollywood:

I am an actor. I am also deaf.

I have played roles written for deaf actors and roles written for hearing actors, when I was lucky enough to have people who believed in me enough to rewrite them to suit me. I am very grateful to have been in this industry for eight years. During that time, I’ve experienced challenges, triumphs and changes – some relating to being deaf, but most related to being an actor in Hollywood searching for the right parts at the right time. I always try to learn what I can with every experience I encounter and hope at the end of the day, that I have done my best to overcome them. It is my sincerest hope with all that I have learned and been fortunate enough to do, I will continue to do everything I can to accept strong roles and positively represent the deaf community on and off the screen.

This weekend, I will join my fellow members of the deaf film community at the first ever WORLDEAF Cinema Festival (WDCF, Nov 4-7) as my alma mater Gallaudet University in Washington, DC celebrates the highest caliber of deaf and hard of hearing filmmaking. WDCF will showcase 22 films that were chosen from the largest number of submissions of any film festival of its kind. At the festival, I will sit on a panel with my colleague, friend and co-star of the upcoming film Hamill Russell Harvard, as we represent deaf and hard of hearing actors in Hollywood. I am very excited to be a part of this important event as Gallaudet recognizes these extremely talented deaf and hard of hearing filmmakers from around the world.

When I started out in Hollywood, I was sometimes the only deaf person in the room on several occasions auditioning for characters that were written as deaf. Now, I’m proud to say that I think things are changing for the better. Now, the room is almost always full of deaf people, and very rarely do you see hearing actors read for roles written as deaf. I think Hollywood has become a lot more politically correct in that sense, and has become more aware of the specific needs that different people have. WDCF is an important step in furthering that awareness in the film industry. The deaf and hard of hearing filmmakers acknowledged by WDCF will hopefully walk away with the confidence to continue to grow their careers and bring their work to a main stream audience.
Shoshannah Stern’s first role was guest-starring on the series Off Centre. She has also had guest-starring roles on television series such as “Providence”, “Boston Public”, “ER”, “The Division, “Threat Matrix,” and “Cold Case.” She played a recurring role on “Weeds” and “Jericho.” Her first lead role in a film was “Adventures of Power”, opposite Adrian Grenier, Jane Lynch, and Michael McKean. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in February 2008, where Shoshannah was honored as one of the Seven Fresh Faces in Film. She also participated in the Emmy-winning music video, “Yes, We Can,” and went on to perform the live version of it at the 2009 Democratic National Convention alongside and John Legend.

In the past year, Shoshannah appeared as Sarah in the sold-out, thrice extended 30th year revival of “Children of a Lesser God” at Deaf West Theater to stellar reviews, including a Best Actress nomination from the LA Weekly Theater Awards. She also completed shooting her second lead role in the independent film, “Hamill.” She is presently working on the third season of “Lie to Me” on FOX, where she plays a graduate student from Princeton recurring opposite Tim Roth.