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Rose Ayling-Ellis calls for more diversity and pens new comedy about deaf women dating


‘I am done with being the token deaf character’: Rose Ayling-Ellis calls for more diversity on TV and reveals she’s penned semi-autobiographical drama about hearing-impaired women dating

  • The actress, 27, spoke about her experience as a deaf woman in the TV industry while appearing at Edinburgh TV Festival on Friday 
  • She called on the industry to include more deaf actors and to ensure shows are suitable for a hearing-impaired audience
  • Rose made history as the first full-time deaf actress on EastEnders and the first hearing-impaired contestant on Strictly Come Dancing
  • The soap actress also revealed that she is working on  a semi-autobiographical  comedy-drama series about deaf women dating in London 

Rose Ayling-Ellis hit out at the lack of diversity on TV as she revealed she’s developing a new comedy-drama about deaf women dating in London. 

The EastEnders actress, 27, has been campaigning for disability rights after gaining  prominence as the first full-time deaf actress on the soap and the first hearing-impaired contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. 

Speaking about her experience at Edinburgh TV Festival, the actress revealed that she was ‘done with being the token deaf character’ on screens and said more needs to be done to make TV accessible, such as ensuring all shows have working subtitles. 

'I am done with being the token deaf character': Rose Ayling-Ellis has called for more TV diversity and revealed she's penned a new comedy about hearing-impaired women dating

‘I am done with being the token deaf character’: Rose Ayling-Ellis has called for more TV diversity and revealed she’s penned a new comedy about hearing-impaired women dating

She said: ‘My reality isn’t always nice. It is not nice when my access is compromised,’ she explained, with a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter on stage beside her.

‘It is not nice to realise my presence is a token. It is not nice when my favourite TV shows don’t have subtitles.

‘It is not nice to feel frustrated and unheard.’

Rose also reflected on a number of the challenges she has faced while working on acting projects, including being expected to teach the rest of the cast BSL. 

Iconic: The EastEnders actress, 27, has been campaigning for disability rights after gaining prominence as the first full-time deaf actress on the soap (pictured on the show)

Iconic: The EastEnders actress, 27, has been campaigning for disability rights after gaining prominence as the first full-time deaf actress on the soap (pictured on the show) 

She also revealed she would spend time explaining how scripts could be improved to make them more accessible and authentic to a deaf person’s experience, but that her changes are often left out of the final cut.

She said: ‘I’m constantly fighting to have my deaf identity represented but end up being made to feel like my voice isn’t heard – I end up feeling torn.

‘Torn between representing the deaf community and telling our story but wanting to have a career with good working relationships.’

Turning to how she feels subtitles need to be improved, she explained that not all channels are required to subtitle 100% of their shows and stated that media watchdog Ofcom has said that ‘decisions on regulations are made on the basis of affordability and audience size, and occasionally technical difficulties’.

Dancing queen: Rose made history  as the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing and said more needs to be done to make TV accessible (pictured with Giovanni Pernice)

Dancing queen: Rose made history  as the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing and said more needs to be done to make TV accessible (pictured with Giovanni Pernice)

She continued: ‘Whatever is next for me, I know one thing for sure – I am done with being the token deaf character. I believe that diverse, rich, and fascinating deaf stories are ready to go mainstream and that we can do this, together. 

‘I don’t know if anyone is going to listen to me, or if this will be lost to the hype.

‘What I do know is that disabled people shouldn’t be responsible for curing non-disabled people of their ignorance.’

Rose’s powerful speech came as it was revealed that she’s developing a new comedy-drama that will give hearing-impaired actors a chance to shine. 

The currently untitled comedy-drama will follow a group of deaf women navigating the dating world in London and is based on Rose’s own experiences. 

Rose will star in the show as well as helping to write the script.  

She told Deadline: ‘This is something that hasn’t been spoken about. We hear a lot about being female and how women appear in the dating scene but as a deaf woman, it’s a very different experience. It will be nice to share that story.’

She went on to note that she is being surrounded by a diverse team during the production, noting: ‘There are so many different people in the show and I can’t speak on behalf of their experiences so I wanted a team that could put it all together. I won’t exactly be going to the countryside to spend months writing this.’

Diverse: Rose's powerful speech came as it was revealed that she's developing a new comedy-drama that will give hearing-impaired actors a chance to shine

Diverse: Rose’s powerful speech came as it was revealed that she’s developing a new comedy-drama that will give hearing-impaired actors a chance to shine

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