‘The Simpsons’ Introduces Its First Deaf Voice Actor And Uses Sign Language
By Mikelle Leow, 11 Apr 2022
Image via The Simpsons
Over 700 episodes on, The Simpsons is still fascinating viewers—this time with its first deaf actors and the use of American Sign Language (ASL).
FOX premiered the unprecedented episode, The Sound of Bleeding Gums, on Sunday. It was written by Loni Steele Sosthand, who drew from personal experiences to work on the script.
The episode follows Lisa Simpson, who hears a song by late saxophonist Bleeding Gums Murphy (who died 27 seasons ago) being appropriated in a lottery commercial with new lyrics. Irked, she tracks down the home of Murphy’s son Monk and has a meaningful chat with him.
It is only later that she discovers that Monk is deaf, and that he wants a cochlear implant. “This whole time we were talking you seemed to hear everything,” Lisa says. To which, the musician’s son clarifies: “I read lips.”
Monk is voiced by actor John Autry II, who’s also deaf. He was cast for the episode after having worked with Sosthand and her brother, Eli Steele, in a pilot about their lives.
The spillover from real life includes Sosthand’s own experience growing up. The writer comes from a mixed-race, jazz-loving family, and her brother was born deaf. “When I think about music, I also think about my brother,” Sosthand divulged in an interview with Variety.
The episode also features three kids—Ian Mayorga, Kaylee Arellano, and Hazel Lopez—from nonprofit No Limits, which supports the development of deaf children.
A lovely touch is that there’s sign language too, despite the characters having only four fingers. To portray communication in a way that was as authentic as possible, the show’s producers worked with ASL specialists to ensure the characters signed properly even with one fewer finger.
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