Lauren Ridloff, 43, is a Deaf actress who was born deaf to hearing parents: an African-American mother and a Mexican-American father.
After attending California State University, Northridge, a university known for its large deaf population, Ridloff joined a local deaf performing group and started working at the National Center of Deafness where she worked to improve education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
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She later competed in the National Association of the Deaf’s Miss America competition. After winning Miss Deaf Illinois, the Chicago-born star ultimately went on to become the second woman of color to win Miss Deaf America.
Although she later enrolled at Hunter College in New York with the goal of becoming a children’s author, Ridloff found herself becoming more and more involved with Deaf community theater. After having a small role in 2017’s “Wonderstruck,” she was hired by director Kenny Leon to tutor him in American Sign Language after he was working on reviving “Children of a Lesser God.”
Although Joshua Jackson was cast as the male lead, the show had yet to find its female lead. Ridloff, who had been substituting as the read-through, was eventually offered the role. In 2018, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway play.
From there, she was cast as Connie in “The Walking Dead” during the show’s ninth season, which debuted that same year.
After taking on a few smaller roles, Ridloff was eventually cast as Makkari in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 2021 film “Eternals.”
Who Is Makkari?
Fans of Marvel comics might be surprised to hear that Ridloff, a deaf woman of color, is playing the role of Makkari, who is portrayed in the comics as a white hearing male. This is just another way that director Chloé Zhao has been working to increase diversity in the new superhero flick, which boasts an impressive cast consisting of Angelina Jolie, Kit Harrington, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, and Kumail Nanjiani.
Some of Makkari’s impressive abilities include superhuman speed, which gives her the ability to run on water, spin cyclones, and even defy gravity.
During the world premiere of “Eternals” in Hollywood last Monday, Ridloff explained that her character embraces her Deaf identity.
“Let’s just say Makkari would not be as fast as she is if it wasn’t for her Deafness,” Ridloff explained. “I can’t wait for people to see the movie and be able to finally talk about it.”
Ridloff revealed that she was drawn to the project when she found out that Zhao was directing. Zhao, a Chinese-born filmmaker, recently made history when she won an Academy Award for directing the Oscar-winning 2020 drama “Nomadland.”
In a new interview, Ridloff explained, “Just to know that I was working with a director like Chloé, I felt very safe. We went through this whole new path as the first Deaf superhero in the MCU, but under her direction, I knew that she would do me justice. And I knew that … authentic representation really is important to her.”
She continued, “I kept wanting to check in about how we would actually reveal my Deafness in the storyline, and we finally got to a point where I felt like we could actually show Makkari as having a Deaf benefit or a Deaf gain. That’s a word that we use within the community to show the idea that being Deaf can actually be a good thing too, and we show that in the movie.”
“Eternals” hits theaters Friday, November 5, 2021.