Los Angeles • Adjusting to life in the spotlight has been quite a transition for Hollywood newcomer Millicent Simmonds. The 14-year-old deaf actress, who earned rave reviews for her breakout role in Todd Haynes' "Wonderstruck," said being away from her family in Utah has been one of the toughest challenges.
"It's a new world for somebody who's going through this, so you have to get used to both things that happen to you — both the good and the bad," said Simmonds during a recent interview.
The "good" includes rubbing elbows with actors like Will Smith, whom she met while premiering "Wonderstruck" at the Cannes Film Festival.
"He came up to me and said, 'Your acting was amazing. I love your movie.' And I was blown away by that!" Simmonds excitedly recalled. "He was so terribly sweet."
The talented ninth grader hopes to inspire young fans and people with disabilities to follow their dreams.
"Deaf people should challenge the status quo and should be represented out there. You know, even deaf-blind people or people who have other physical disabilities should also be supported," she said. "I think it's important that we show them that we can all be in this together and support and help one another as one big family."
Simmonds, who's already filmed her next project, a horror movie with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt, never dreamt of this life. She had a typical teenage existence until her drama teacher encouraged her to audition for the part of Rose, a young deaf girl in Haynes' period drama.
"I thought, well might as well just do it for the fun of it and so here I am. I mean, I didn't expect it to be this big. I thought, you know, my life would just be average and normal like everybody else's — except this one thing happened," she said.