The Real Deaf Individuals Behind Apple TV's El Deafo
It isn’t every day that a TV show features a Deaf character. But as of this January, Apple TV+ broke new ground with its latest series. Called El Deafo, it is adapted from the graphic novel illustrated and written by Cece Bell. The book, which is recommended for ages nine to 12, became a New York Times best-seller. The story is loosely based on Bell’s own experience developing profound hearing loss after an illness and then wearing hearing aids for the first time. One key difference exists between real life and the show – Bell is a human, and the characters in El Deafo are bunnies. This makes it especially appealing for younger viewers.
The real Cece Bell (left) as a child, and the animated Cece from El Deafo.
The three-part animated series has authentic casting in terms of the voice actors. Lexi Finigan, a 12-year-old who has cochlear implants, plays Cece. Bell told HearingTracker that she felt it was crucial that a Deaf or hard-of-hearing actor who has cochlear implants or wears hearing aids (or both) play the character of Cece.
Sharing the Deaf experience
“It is a story about deafness and using hearing aids and what that experience is like,” Bell said. “I was afraid that if I wasn't involved, then it wouldn't be in the hands of people who had that same experience. It wouldn't be able to include the same nuances.”
“Positive representation is so important because, unfortunately, there's a lot of shame that gets tied up in disability,” Bell said. Speaking of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community, she adds, “When we see somebody that is just like us, and they're [shown as] a regular kid, a regular person, then that's very empowering.”
Stream El Deafo on Apple TV+ now with a subscription or a free trial.
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