Millicent Simmonds is making waves and breaking barriers for deaf actors

PHOTOSJess Farran
TALENTMillicent Simmonds
STYLINGJenn Rosado
MAKEUP: Kim Bower at TMG-LA
HAIR: Matthew Monzon at TMG-LA
PRODUCER / WORDS: Jasmine Perrier
SPECIAL THANKS: Cara Vision Studio

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide

Millicent Simmonds holds all the cards to become Hollywood’s latest gem. Thanks to her major roles opposite industry-leading figures in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck, and John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, the 17-year-old deaf actress is a powerhouse to improve the representation of people with disabilities in the film industry. We first caught up with Millie — as many refer to her — in March for a photoshoot in New York’s flower district, two days after the New York premiere of A Quiet Place Part II. An exciting worldwide press tour was on the agenda for the young performer — until all plans got postponed due to the pandemic, and Paramount decided to push back the release to April 2021. “Right after the premiere in New York we were supposed to go to the London premiere,” she relates. “I’ve never been and have been wanting to go for the longest time. I was so devastated, or how Noah [Jupe] would say ‘gutted.’ It was and has been very surreal to have it pulled at the last minute.”

After what felt a lifetime, we reconnected with Millicent to check in on her and see what she has been up to during her time at home. “I think like most people, it’s been a real reflective time for me. It’s also been pretty emotional at times,” she says. “I’ve had the time to do things that I normally wouldn’t have time for. I’ve read a lot, started painting again, and even started writing stories which I’ve always loved to do.” Even if this period has allowed her to slow down quite a bit, the Young Hollywood newcomer states she misses traveling and being on set. “It’s been bittersweet for me.” With just three feature film credits to her name, Millicent’s short but impressive career is marked by her breakout performances that cannot be ignored. “It’s really not something that I planned on but now that I’m here, a lot of people have influenced me and helped me along this path,” she says. Having her roots in Utah, she was first introduced to performing arts at her local deaf school when she joined a drama club and got her starts on stage. “My first performance was in front of 100 people,” she tries to recall. “It was for a conference and I played Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We would travel  around and perform mostly Shakespeare plays.” Growing up, Millicent affirms she never saw deaf kids on screen and didn’t really think it was a possible career option for her. “I feel like I accidentally fell into this path rather than chose it,” she says. 

It is extremely satisfying to see doors being opened to kids with disabilities that I hadn’t really seen when I was young

At the request of her drama teacher, Millicent auditioned for Wonderstruck and made her big screen debut opposite Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams as Rose, a 12-year-old deaf girl living in 1920s New Jersey. “I didn’t think there was any chance I would get it — I’m happy I did,” she shares. “When I was offered the role, I was extremely overwhelmed, and questioned myself and my ability. I was used to the stage and felt very much out of place, [because] playing to a camera is nothing like playing to an audience.” Wonderstruck premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2017 which Millicent attended with her co-stars. “I had no idea what to expect. I remember the flashes and the photographers yelling at us — it was very intimidating and scary at first,” she recalls from the red carpet. “I remember taking a deep breath and turning around — seeing it all from the top was electric. I saw my parents on the stairs just beaming.” From then on, she decided to keep pursuing this path and growing side by side with Hollywood royalty instilled confidence in her as an actor. “I feel extremely fortunate to have worked with the people I’ve worked with — they really understand the business, but are also so genuine and generous with their time and advice. I’ve learned so much just from watching them.”

Right after Wonderstruck, the actress kept making waves when she was cast in horror movie A Quiet Place alongside John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Noah Jupe, as part of the Abbott family who is trying to survive in utter silence to an invasion of blind, sound-hunting monsters. After the success of the first film in 2018 — which earned critical acclaim and grossed over $340 million worldwide — Millicent was set to reprise her role as Regan Abbott in A Quiet Place Part II, which puts her character’s fight to help save her family at the center of the storyline. “I am my worst critic,” she says before explaining she often finds things about her performances that she would change or could have done better. “When I saw the sequel with my mom the night before it premiered in New York, she turned to me after it was over and asked me what I thought. It was the first time that I couldn’t think of anything that I would’ve changed or didn’t like. It was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever felt.” Eventually, Millicent feels “a sense of pride” when reflecting on the franchise. “I don’t think any of us really thought beyond the first film, and even then I don’t think we had any idea that it would turn into what it has. I love the fact that it was just the four of us — we really had to rely on each other and become a family. I will always feel that way about John, Emily, and Noah. I’m excited to see where it goes from here.

At her remarkably young age, Millicent delivers genuine, raw, and powerful performances that have made her one of the most promising performers of her generation — with a nomination at the Critics Choice Awards and a recognition at the 2020 Hollywood Critics Association Awards. While climbing the steady road to success, she plans on continuing acting and only picking roles that she really loves. “Because I’m young and still live with my parents, I have the luxury not to feel the pressure to say yes to everything that has been offered. I might not have that much longer so I’m taking advantage now,” she teases. Committed to embracing her identity and breaking barriers for deaf actors in the business, she hopes to change people’s minds about hiring actors with all disabilities. “I think all deaf people to some degree feel like they don’t click with the majority of people around them, regardless of where they’re from,” she says. “It is extremely satisfying to see doors being opened to kids with disabilities that I hadn’t really seen when I was young. It’s happening more now than it ever has and I feel grateful to have played a part in that.” Whereas continuing her education is pretty high on her priority list, the actress states she never wants to stop learning. “I’m currently in the process of trying to make [a story] happen so I’m extremely excited about it, and can’t really say much more unfortunately — but fingers crossed!” Millicent is all aware of the challenges that the film industry involves, but she knows she can rely on her family and friends no matter what. “When everything else is uncertain, I know that they will always be here for me. It’s comforting for me to know that,” she says. When it is time to conclude our conversation, she gently reminds us with a smile, “Enjoy every moment. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow.”

Full story appears in Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16. Purchase your digital or print copy!

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