I was excited to learn that the Deaf character in the summer hit Baby Driver is actually played by a Deaf actor. This may signal a positive shift in Hollywood. Historically, most of the disabled characters in films were played by non-disabled actors, and a study by the Ruderman Family Foundation found that 95% of disabled characters on television are played by non-disabled actors. This is called cripface, like blackface, and needs to stop. When filmmaker Edgar Wright searched for an actor to play Joseph, the Deaf father of the main character in Baby Driver, he discovered CJ Jones. Jones is a highly talented actor with extensive experience in film and television. He’s also Deaf, offering a wealth of insights into Deaf culture and American Sign Language. Impressed by Jones’ talent, Wright cast Jones to play Joseph. Jones became the first black Deaf actor in a major movie.
Jones graciously took time from his busy schedule to talk to me about his career. Jones generally conducts calls through video, allowing him to communicate visually through American Sign Language. Because I’m Deafblind and can’t see video, we held the interview over text. Below is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation:
Haben: Film is very visual. Deaf culture and American Sign Language are very visual, too. Do you think being Deaf gives you an advantage over hearing actors?
CJ: Oh, that’s an interesting question. Well, Haben, it is not about being hearing or Deaf, it is not about being black or white, it […]