Big Issue Vendor

Millicent Simmonds: ‘People with disabilities don’t need to be saved’

A Quiet Place Part II is released on June 4, with a disabled character as the hero and not the victim
Hushed up The silence of the film – and the knowledge Regan isn’t aware of any sounds she makes – ramp up the tension. Photo: Paramount Pictures / Jonny Cournoyer

Cinemas have been deathly quiet for over a year – and now they’re quiet in a much better way with the release of A Quiet Place Part II.

The follow-up to the 2018 horror sensation sees the Abbott family continue their fight for survival in silence, with any sound over a whisper attracting the attention of vicious creatures – and the original was so intensely terrifying that audiences didn’t make a sound either.

A Quiet Place spoke loudly about the importance of watching film as a shared experience. That’s why it’s perhaps the most anticipated release now that big screens have reopened.

Plus the fact that it was originally due to be released just as the first wave cancelled normal life as we know it in March 2020, and buses carried its advertising through long months of lockdown, reminding us of the alternate pandemic-free life we should have been living.

“It was hard having something that I had worked so hard on and was so excited about, be delayed over and over again,” says its star Millicent Simmonds.

“I have to say that I think now is a better time to release this movie. It feels more relevant in a strange way.”

In A Quiet Place Part II, 18-year-old Simmonds shares the lead with Emily Blunt. The film is written and directed again by John Krasinski – still best known for sideways glancing Jim in the US version of The Office – but with his character appearing only in flashback, Simmonds’ character Regan becomes the hero.

“I think Regan now feels a huge responsibility to take care of her family,” Simmonds says via an email interview with The Big Issue.

“She feels like she needs to step into her father’s role and do what he would have done. I think she has more resolve to avenge her father and brother’s deaths.”

I really love that they now have a deaf hero that saves the world instead of having to be saved

Simmonds too has grown since the first film.

“Like Regan, I’ve become more confident in myself. I trust my instincts more than I have in the past. I have to credit John for having the confidence in me before I did.”

In the last year of disrupted plans, Simmonds focused on finishing school, read a lot and tried to appreciate the downtime. She also helped develop the Millie Smile Mask – a face mask with a transparent window.

“The deaf community really struggled with masks,” she explains. “So much of our communication relies on lip reading and expression, none of which you can see when your face is covered by a mask.”

Regan is central to the whole concept of A Quiet Place. She, like Simmonds, is deaf. Her family being able to talk in sign language helped them survive. But is silence itself scary?

“Silence is really all I’ve ever known so I don’t know how to answer that. To me it’s peaceful and tranquil. I feel like I’m more stressed and distracted when there is a lot of noise.

“I have to say it’s so nice being on a plane with a screaming baby next to you and be able to turn it off.”

What does scare Simmonds then?

“I’m terrified of spiders and sharks. And of course being eaten by monsters.”

In a world of silence, does Regan have a power that other characters do not?

“I’m not sure Regan’s deafness is an advantage in this world. I always thought Regan was at a disadvantage and had to be twice as careful because she was unaware of how much noise she was making. And like in the first film she’s completely unaware of the monsters when they’re right behind her.

“She has more obstacles to overcome, which is maybe why she’s the most unlikely hero.”

Actors who are deaf or living with a disability aren’t always fairly represented on screen.

And if they are they can be cast in roles as victims who need to be saved, or worse, exist to teach the hero an inspiring lesson. That is why Regan is so refreshing.

“People with disabilities don’t need to be saved. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. I love that Regan is so stubborn that she takes matters into her own hands.

“That feels more authentic to me.

“I didn’t grow up seeing myself or my language on screen. I really love that they now have a Deaf hero that saves the world instead of having to be saved. It’s huge for me.”

A Quiet Place Part II is out now.