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Lauren Ridloff

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Lauren Ridloff
Ridloff at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con
Lauren Teruel

(1978-04-06) April 6, 1978 (age 46)
Years active2017–present
Douglas Ridloff
(m. 2006)

Lauren Ridloff (née Teruel; born April 6, 1978) is a deaf American actress known for her roles in the TV series The Walking Dead and the film Eternals. She gained prominence in 2018 with a lead role in the Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God, earning her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play. Ridloff was born in Chicago, Illinois. She attended California State University, Northridge and later earned a master's degree in education from Hunter College. She initially worked as a teacher before pursuing acting, and she was also crowned Miss Deaf America.

Ridloff's acting career gained momentum when she was hired as an American Sign Language tutor for Kenny Leon, the director of Children of a Lesser God, and subsequently cast in the lead role. She then joined the ninth season of The Walking Dead, and she was also cast as the first deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the film Eternals. In addition to acting, Ridloff has received various accolades and is actively involved in projects that expand representation in the entertainment industry.

Early life and education[edit]

Lauren Teruel was born on April 6, 1978, in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States.[1] She was born deaf to hearing parents, a Mexican-American father and an African-American mother.[2] Her father Hugo was a counselor at University of Illinois at Chicago.[3] He was also a musician, and Ridloff's mother was an artist. Ridloff grew up in the Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park.[4] Her parents thought their infant had a developmental delay, but by the time she was two years old, they learned that she was deaf. They learned sign language with her and enrolled her in Catholic school with hearing children. She performed well in school. When she was 13 years old, she stopped using her voice so people would stop judging her intelligence based on her vocal intelligibility. Following Catholic school, she attended the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., where she was among deaf and hard-of-hearing peers. She began exploring the arts, starting with ceramics and becoming involved with drama. In a school production of The Wiz, she played Dorothy. She was also on the cheerleading team and became one of the first deaf American cheerleaders to compete internationally.[2]

Ridloff chose to attend California State University, Northridge, a university with a large deaf and hard-of-hearing student population, because of its National Center on Deafness.[3] She majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing, completing her degree in 2001.[5] While in college, she joined a local deaf performing group and took up hip-hop dancing.[3] After she graduated in May 2000, she began working at the NCOD, where she was involved in a program to improve post-secondary school education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Later in the year, she decided to compete in the National Association of the Deaf's Miss Deaf America competition, having been inspired by the competition she saw two years prior. She won the preliminary competition of Miss Deaf Illinois and ultimately won Miss Deaf America.[6] She was the second consecutive CSUN graduate to win the crown, and she was also the first competitor of either African-American or Mexican-American descent to win the pageant.[3] Her activities in competition included an ASL performance of the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.[2] After winning Miss Deaf America, she began a two-year stint of attending luncheons and graduation ceremonies as a spokesperson for NAD.[3]

After graduating from CSUN, Ridloff went to Hunter College in New York to study education with the goal of becoming a children's author.[2] After earning her master's degree in education in 2005,[7] She started teaching kindergarten and first grade at Public School 347 in Manhattan. She was also involved with deaf community theater and film work for friends. She married Douglas Ridloff, who she met at CSUN,[5] in 2006, and they have two children,[2] both boys and both deaf.[4] After nine years of teaching,[8] she left her teaching job to take care of the boys. The family lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood of New York,[2] until they moved to Austin, Texas, in 2022.[9]

Acting career[edit]

Lead-up to Children of a Lesser God[edit]

Ridloff played a small role as a superpowered agent in the 2017 film Sign Gene: The First Deaf Superheroes.[10] She also joined the production of the 2017 film Wonderstruck as a consultant and was ultimately cast in a small role.[4] She also appeared in the lyric video for the song "Love Me Now" by John Legend.[11]

Ridloff after the conclusion of Children of a Lesser God in May 2018

When director Kenny Leon began producing a revival of the 1980 play Children of a Lesser God, he hired Ridloff to tutor him in American Sign Language. Leon cast Joshua Jackson as the male lead but had not cast the female lead role. By then, Ridloff had been tutoring Leon for over a year. He asked her to substitute at a read-through early on, and based on her performance, he offered her the role as Sarah Norman. The cast had an initial run at the Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One of the most challenging aspects of her role was using her voice, which she had not used since she was 13 years old. The New York Times wrote, "Ms. Ridloff compares the experience of using her voice during the play to a crotch shot, saying that at first she felt exposed, and vulnerable, and ugly." After a year with the role and with a vocal coach, she found greater ease. She explained, "It feels empowering to me—like finally I own every part of myself, [but] I don't see myself ever using my voice on a conversational level—that's just not who I am." The revival premiered on Broadway in April 2018, and The New York Times wrote, "Critics were underwhelmed by the production, but mesmerized by Ms. Ridloff." The revival was shuttered on May 27, 2018.[2]

The Walking Dead, Eternals, and beyond[edit]

Ridloff was a fan of the TV series The Walking Dead, which had premiered in 2010, and submitted an audition tape to be cast in the series. She was cast as Connie and started her role in the show's ninth season, which premiered in October 2018.[12] In July 2019, Ridloff was cast in the 2021 Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Eternals as the superhero Makkari,[13] who in the comics is a hearing and white man. As part of director Chloé Zhao's approach to broaden casting representation, the casting of Ridloff revises the character to be a deaf woman of color.[14] The casting makes Ridloff the first deaf superhero in the MCU. To film for Eternals, Ridloff took a leave of absence from The Walking Dead, not appearing in six consecutive episodes of the show's tenth season.[15] Her role in Eternals led to an increase in web searches for American Sign Language courses.[16]

Following Ridloff's appearance in Eternals in 2021, she re-partnered with Joshua Jackson from Children of a Lesser God to star together in a romantic drama TV series being developed by Ava DuVernay at the TV network Starz. The network gave a three-season commitment to the planned series in May 2022. Ridloff was also attached as executive producer along with DuVernay and Jackson.[17] In September 2023, Starz said that the drama series, which had started filming, would not be proceeding, following DuVernay's decision to depart after her contract with Warner Bros. TV concluded and amidst several series changes at the network.[18]

In July 2022, Ridloff was one of three deaf actors cast in an episode of the Fox anthology drama TV series Accused, with the episode being directed by Marlee Matlin,[19] and the episode aired in January 2023.[20]

Recognition and advocacy[edit]

In 2020, Ridloff received the SAG-AFTRA Harold Russell Award at the 41st Media Access Awards.[21] In the same year, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts selected Ridloff as a 2020 Breakthrough performer along with 33 other talents in film, television, and games.[22]

In March 2023, the New York Women in Film & Television at their Muse Awards honored Ridloff along with several women in the industry.[23] In December, Ridloff delivered a lecture about inclusion and representation as part of the Kean University President’s Distinguished Lecture Series.[24]


Ridloff's acting credits
Year(s) Title Medium Role Notes Ref.
2017 Sign Gene: The First Deaf Superheroes Feature film QIA agent
2017 Wonderstruck Feature film Pearl, The Maid
2018 Children of a Lesser God Stage Sarah Norman
2018–2022 The Walking Dead Television Connie Seasons 9 through 11 (30 episodes)
2018 Legacies Television Dragon Episode: "Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn"
2019 New Amsterdam Television Margot Episode: "Happy Place"
2019 Sound of Metal Feature film Diane
2021 Eternals Feature film Makkari
2021 The Magnificent Meyersons Feature film Tammy
2023 Accused Television Sari Episode: "Ava's Story"
TBD Charlie and the Hunt Short film Lila Directed by Jenn Shaw


Ridloff's acting awards
Year Title Medium Award Ceremony Result Ref.
2018 Children of a Lesser God Stage Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance 84th Drama League Awards Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play Outer Critics Circle Awards for 2017–2018 Nominated
Theatre World Award Theatre World Awards for 2017-2018 Honored
Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play 72nd Tony Awards Nominated


  1. ^ Ruff, Rivea (November 5, 2021). "Lauren Ridloff Becomes An Intersectional Icon Through Her (Unexpected) Acting Career". Essence. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Paulson, Michael (May 11, 2018). "Lauren Ridloff's Quiet Power: 'My Life Has Changed in Every Way'". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e Cohen (August 31, 2000). "Bringing Storytelling to the Deaf". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e Guadagnino, Kate (February 14, 2018). "From Sign-Language Tutor to Lead Actress". T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Steinbeck, Jenny (June 15, 2022). "From CSUN to Hollywood: Distinguished Alumni Awards Return". CSUN Today. California State University, Northridge. Retrieved June 26, 2022.
  6. ^ Hopkins, Brent (August 30, 2000). "Miss Deaf America has passion for the printed word". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  7. ^ "ClassNotes". community.hunter.cuny.edu. Hunter College. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  8. ^ Lewis, Antwan (November 2, 2022). "'Walking Dead' actress Lauren Ridloff to run New York City Marathon". fox5ny.com. WNYW. Retrieved November 7, 2022.
  9. ^ Calucchia, Christie (November 2, 2022). "Why Deaf Actress Lauren Ridloff Is Running the New York City Marathon". Yahoo! News. Retrieved November 9, 2022.
  10. ^ "The Untold Truth Of Lauren Ridloff". Looper. November 8, 2021.
  11. ^ McPhee, Ryan (August 15, 2017). "Joshua Jackson and Lauren Ridloff Will Make Their Broadway Debuts in Children of a Lesser God". Playbill. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  12. ^ Pelletiere, Nicole (February 8, 2019). "'The Walking Dead' star Lauren Ridloff talks being the first deaf actor in series' history". Good Morning America. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  13. ^ a b McPhee, Ryan (July 22, 2019). "Tony Nominee Lauren Ridloff Cast as Marvel Cinematic Universe's First Deaf Superhero". Playbill. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  14. ^ Duran, Jose (November 20, 2020). "Marvel's Eternals Star Lauren Ridloff on Being the MCU's First Deaf Superhero". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  15. ^ Ordoña, Michael (October 4, 2020). "'The Walking Dead' showrunner explains fan favorite character's surprise return". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  16. ^ O'Leary, Alex (November 10, 2021). "Eternals' Makkari inspires Increase in American Sign Language Web Searches". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved December 15, 2023.
  17. ^ Sun, Rebecca (May 19, 2022). "Ava DuVernay Developing Lauren Ridloff, Joshua Jackson Romantic Drama at Starz". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 20, 2022.
  18. ^ Longeretta, Emily (November 2, 2023). "Ava DuVernay Drama Series Starring Joshua Jackson, Lauren Ridloff Not Moving Forward at Starz (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved November 2, 2023.
  19. ^ Petski, Denise (July 7, 2022). "'Accused': Stephanie Nogueras, Megan Boone Among 7 Cast In Marlee Matlin-Directed Episode Of Fox Anthology Series". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  20. ^ a b Roberts, Soraya (January 22, 2023). "'Sometimes you felt excluded': How debut director Marlee Matlin righted past wrongs". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  21. ^ Gardner, Chris (November 10, 2020). "Ramy Youssef, Netflix's 'Crip Camp' and 'Away' to Be Honored for Positive Disability Depictions". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 27, 2021.
  22. ^ Grater, Tom (November 16, 2020). "BAFTA Unveils 2020 Breakthrough Talents From U.S. & UK". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  23. ^ Reul, Katie (March 14, 2023). "Janet Yang, Freida Pinto, Sharon Stone Among NYWIFT Muse Award Honorees (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  24. ^ Staff (December 14, 2023). "Actress Lauren Ridloff Shares Insight on Representation in Kean University President's Distinguished Lecture". New Jersey Stage. Retrieved December 15, 2023.
  25. ^ Sobon, Nicole (July 21, 2019). "Eternals Will Feature the MCU's First Deaf Superhero". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  26. ^ Ross, Dalton (July 16, 2018). "The Walking Dead casts Tony nominee Lauren Ridloff for season 9". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  27. ^ Radish, Christina (October 25, 2018). "Julie Plec on the 'Vampire Diaries' Spinoff 'Legacies', Easter Eggs, & Alaric as Dumbledore". Collider. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  28. ^ Appelbaum, Lauren (July 18, 2019). "NBC's New Amsterdam as a Case Study in Disability Representation". respectability.org. RespectAbility. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  29. ^ Clement, Nick (September 7, 2019). "Marder's Riz Ahmed-Starring 'Sound of Metal' Explores Deaf Identity". Variety. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  30. ^ Ravindran, Manori (February 15, 2022). "'Magnificent Meyersons': Mise En Scene Takes Global Rights to Sci-Fi Family Drama (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved July 25, 2023.
  31. ^ Clark, Kevin L. (November 22, 2021). "Forever Eternal: Lauren Ridloff Discusses Firsts, Subtitles & Superpowered Team-Ups". BET. Retrieved February 22, 2022.
  32. ^ "2018 Nominees: The 84th Drama League Awards". dramaleague.org. The Drama League. Archived from the original on January 7, 2021. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  33. ^ "Awards for 2017–2018". outercritics.org. Outer Critics Circle. Archived from the original on May 31, 2020. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  34. ^ Millward, Tom (May 8, 2018). "Theatre World Awards 2018 recipients revealed". New York Theatre Guide. Retrieved June 16, 2023.
  35. ^ "The Tony Award Nominations". tonyawards.com. Tony Awards. Retrieved April 24, 2020.

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