Deaf Actor Keivonn Woodard Captivates in The Last of Us Series

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The hit running series The Last of Us by Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Naughty Dog game studio is led by writers Neil Druckmann and Craig Maizin, who adapts lore from an even more successful and equally controversial two-part video game. The reimagined infected scenario joins the admired infected/zombie franchises of the 21st century. 

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The Last of Us has been staying true to the game’s storyline with the utmost dedication. Yet, in episode 4 of the HBO series, actor Keivonn Woodard captivatingly uses ASL (American Sign Language), unlike his game counterpart, Sam. He captures yearning and innocence while living in dystopian circumstances. The aspiring NHL player was coached by his personal ASL interpreter behind the scenes. While the excerpts of the making of the series were so fascinating, the bonding between him and his co-stars raised internal temperatures that made the heart swell. There was so much to admire in their graceful communication, but what stood out was the genuine bonding moments beyond filming.

Already the franchise has been swarmed by some criticism for pandering. Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey), the deuteragonist to the main character Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal), hints progressive views and displays her identity with LGBTQ+ community. This was explicit in the game’s release of downloadable content, which is covered in the latest episode. She is adventuring around with Riley Abel (Storm Reid), the love interest that is revealed later in a kiss after many suspenseful wordless stares. While hitting high notes in representation for many, it would seem that Sony and Naughty Dog would continue to support and spotlight diverse and differently-abled actors in their mainstream entertainment. 

The normalization of under-utilized minority actors and actresses seems to be the atmosphere of the entertainment industry now. Instead of type-casting differently-abled actors when it pertains to their disability, entertainment media could alternatively think about how their characters are typically envisioned in the first place. It’s great to see the capabilities of the industry when it facilitates quality roles for actors like Woodard.