‘The Simpsons’: Deaf actor, ASL used in historic episode
Deaf actor John Autry II, who appears in the episode, called his casting “a piece of history”.
Deaf members of the film community enjoyed a historic night at the Oscars, when “CODA” won Best Picture and deaf actor Troy Kotsur won Best Supporting Actor. But that may have just been the beginning, with more opportunities for Deaf artists and creators continuing to materialize. The latest Hollywood property to work with deaf actors: “The Simpsons.”
The next episode of the long-running cartoon, “The Sound of Bleeding Gums,” follows Lisa Simpson as she tracks down the deaf son of her favorite saxophonist and helps him get a cochlear implant. The episode is notable for including American Sign Language footage (despite the characters only having four fingers), as well as having deaf actor John Autry II cast as the character’s voice. When the episode airs this Sunday, Autry will be the first deaf performer to voice a character on the show.
“It’s so amazing,” Autry told Variety. “It is equality and participation that change lives. It can impact change for all of us. It’s about hard of hearing and hearing characters coming together. It’s part of the story.
The episode was written by Loni Steele Sosthand, who has a personal connection to the material. “I am Métis; my dad’s black and jazz were big in our house,” she said. “We grew up in the suburbs, and it was a way for my dad to bring that aspect of our culture. But when I think of music, I also think of my brother, who was born deaf. When we were talking about this Bleeding Gums character in our early brainstorms, we thought it wouldn’t be cool if Lisa found out about this whole other side of her life. It led to him having a son, and then we based that character at least a bit on my brother. And the story grew from there.
Sosthand praised “CODA” for the opportunities it has created for the deaf community, but hopes the film and its “Simpsons” episode will lead to many more deaf film and television projects.
“I was one of the first viewers of ‘CODA’ and I really admire the film,” Soshand said. “There are themes that resonate a bit here, stemming from a sibling relationship. And also ‘CODA’ has the tension between music and deaf experience. I think it’s great because the deaf experience isn’t just a story, there are so many stories to tell.
“The Sound of Bleeding Gums” airs Sunday, April 10 on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.