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7 Famous Deaf Actors and Actresses


Breaking out into the world of acting is a very challenging venture – even more so if you have a hearing disability. Despite the numerous obstacles that confront actors in the deaf community, these famous deaf actors and actresses have not only excelled in the art of acting, but also provided a strong presence in hearing impaired activism.

This list features famous deaf actors and actresses, all of whom continue to provide a voice for the deaf community and the ongoing challenges that the community struggles with.

1. Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin is a very notable famous deaf actress, and she may be one of the most recognizable names on this list. Since she was only 18 months old, Marlee Matlin has suffered from deafness caused by a severe illness with high fevers. However, by the time she was 21, she won the Academy Award for the film Children of a Lesser God (1986), being the only deaf actor/actress to win the award to date.

Matlin is also known for her performance in Switched At Birth (2011), The West Wing (1999), and The L Word (2004). She also works in deaf activism to promote awareness of the community to the rest of the world.


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2. Nyle DiMarco

Nyle DiMarco began his career as a freelance model before being scouted for the show America’s Next Top Model. It wasn’t known at the time that he was deaf, though he won the competition as the only hearing impaired contestant.

As his celebrity grew, he took on dancing for the show Dancing With the Stars and acting roles in television shows like Switched At Birth (2011). DiMarco currently leverages his fame to bring awareness to deaf activism and deaf culture.


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3. Millicent Simmonds

When A Quiet Place (2018) took the horror film scene by storm last year, not many fans knew that the young actress opposite to Emily Blunt and John Krasinski is a deaf American teen actress.

Simmonds, who is relatively new to the Hollywood scene, first debuted with Wonderstruck (2017), which was nominated for numerous awards. Her deafness was initially caused by a medication overdose when she was only 12 months old. She is currently working on the sequel to the 2018 hit A Quiet Place.


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4. Russell Harvard

Russell Harvard, born to a deaf family in 1981, is a famous deaf actor who made his feature film debut with the film There Will Be Blood (2007) as the adult adoptive son of Daniel Day Lewis’ character. Since this appearance, Harvard has made many television and film appearances, including landing a role in the hit show Fargo (2013). Harvard has also expressed talents in theatre and musical performances.

In 2010, Harvard stood before the U.S. Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and The Internet to advocate equal access to communications for the hearing impaired with closed captions on regular television programming. He advocated that this same closed captioning accessibility be available on mobile devices and across streaming services. Furthermore, his advocacy includes more roles designed for the deaf community.


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5. Daniel Durant

Daniel Durant began his career as a stage actor in the hit Broadway Revival play Spring Awakening (2015), an adaptation of the 1891 German play of the same name. Lately, Durant has been recognized for his recurring role in the television show Switched at Birth (2011).

Recognized as a famous deaf actor, Durant is also known for his advocacy for improved accessibility in deaf culture with expanded closed captioning capabilities functions for television and film as well as being an American Sign Language (ASL) artist.


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6. Kitty O’Neil

Known as the “fastest woman in the world”, Kitty O’Neil is an American stuntwoman who has competed in many land and water races. She made her move to performing stunts for films in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, including The Bionic Woman (1976), Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and The Blues Brothers (1980). One of her most well-known performances is her portrayal as Wonder Woman’s stunt double when she temporarily replaced her usual stunt double, Jeannie Epper, for a particularly dangerous stunt.

While performing the stunt, she broke the record for the women’s highest fall record at 127 feet when she leapt off of a 12-story Valley Hilton. Over the course of her life, O’Neil experienced discrimination as a woman in the stunt acting field and as a deaf person trying to break into the media field, though succeeded in securing a legacy despite the many obstacles.


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7. Linda Bove

Linda Bove’s career has been in equal-parts acting and raising awareness towards deaf culture through her role as Linda the Librarian on Sesame Street between 1972 and 2002. She was born to two deaf parents and her educational background growing up has been steeped in library sciences and theatrical productions.

Her career in television acting has been most active in the 70’s and 80’s. Her role in Sesame Street was instrumental in teaching many children basic sign language and addressing issues in the deaf community, showing a generation that differences are meant to be embraced.


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