Featured Artist Series: Millicent Simmonds of Wonderstruck

14-year-old deaf actress Millicent Simmonds made her outstanding, breakthrough performance film debut in 2017’s Wonderstruck, where she plays Rose, a 12-year old deaf girl living in 1927 Hoboken, NJ, who runs away from home one day to find her mother, the actress Lillian Mayhew (played by Julianne Moore). I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Bountiful, Utah native Millicent, who submitted for the role via Cast It Talent, which ran the Talent Search for Wonderstruck for Laura Rosenthal Casting.


Jeff Locker: Hi Millie! First of all, you were magnificent in Wonderstruck! You lit up every frame you were in – congratulations! I heard you submitted for the role via Cast It through a large-scale talent search. Can you talk a little about how you found out about it and what the process of submitting/auditioning was like?

Millicent Simmonds: Hi Jeff!  Thank you so much for saying that!  I’m so glad you liked the movie. Yes, I can talk about that. My drama teacher at my deaf school got an email about an audition for 10-12 year old deaf girls. She contacted my mom and told her that I needed to try out. So my mom emailed the casting agency and got the different scenes to do, we recorded the scenes on her cell phone and sent them in. A couple of weeks later, the casting office called my mom and said they wanted to see more. So we recorded some more scenes to do and sent them in.  I think it was about a week after that when they called my mom and asked if we could fly out to New York that weekend.  We hadn’t told my family yet!  So we flew out to New York and met everyone and they told me I got the part before we came back home!


JL: Wonderstruck was your feature film debut: from Utah to NYC to working as an actor on a professional film set with big stars like Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams. Was this something you ever imagined happening, and at such a young age?

MS: Oh my gosh no!  I always wanted to be a cop or a firefighter.  I loved drama and acting in plays in school but I never thought of becoming an actress.  I just didn’t think that was something deaf people could do.  I didn’t grow up watching anyone deaf in movies.  This was definitely not planned or expected!


JL: What was the most exciting or surprising part about filming Wonderstruck? I heard you were a fan of the book – that must’ve been a bit of a dream come true!

MS: I loved the book. It was the first book I had read that had anyone deaf in it. And I loved Rose’s story so much. I loved how confident she was. I wish I were more like that. Moving to New York was so exciting!! I had never been and had always wanted to go. It was the best experience of my life. I love the city so much. And I met so many amazing people that I will never forget.


JL: I’ve seen so many folks from around the country and abroad calling you an inspiration, especially those in the deaf community who might not always feel represented on the big screen. How has that part of this experience been for you?

MS: I don’t really see myself like that.  But if little deaf girls that want to become actresses, I’m glad that they can see someone in a movie that is deaf now. I didn’t have that. So I’m happy that I get to be that for them. And I just really love acting and becoming a different character.


JL: You’ve been nominated for a Critics Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, recognized by the Associated Press as one of eight Breakthrough Entertainers of 2017, you’re walking the red carpets of awards shows watched around the world, and you’ve got a big movie coming up called A Quiet Place (which looks amazing btw!) How are you handling the life of a new movie star?

MS: It really has been so crazy lately.  I’ve loved every minute. It’s hard work but it’s what I want to do. I hope to act as long as I can.


JL: What advice do you have for actors out there – particularly those who might feel underrepresented in Hollywood and younger actors – who are either looking for their big break or, well, just hoping to be a working actor?

MS: I would just tell them to not give up. Especially if it’s what they want to do. It’s hard work. It’s not all easy. Be yourself. Don’t try and be like anyone else.  Everyone is different and unique.


JL: Finally, what is next for you? Do you have a dream role you hope to play someday or a story that you’d love to tell?

MS: I would love to play a villain or a spy or someone like that. No one would be suspicious of me! I would love to tell more deaf stories. Not a lot of people understand what it’s like to be deaf.


JL: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us and share your experience with your fellow artists and creative peers. We’re so happy for you, and can’t wait to watch your career blossom!!

MS: You are very welcome!



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Jeff Locker Jeff Locker is an actor, host, and writer based in Los Angeles. Fluent in Mandarin, he's also a well-known and award-winning TV and radio host in Taiwan and China. Please follow Jeff on all the various things at @jefflocker. And remember: we're only as strong as the community that we build together!

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