Millicent Simmonds, the breakout star of the hit film series ‘A Quiet Place’, is taking on a key historical figure for her next role. The 18-year-old actor will play the role of the late deaf-blind activist Helen Keller in ‘Helen & Teacher’.
As per People magazine, ‘Helen & Teacher’ is an upcoming film about Keller’s relationship with the late Anne Sullivan, her translator and companion. ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ star Rachel Brosnahan will essay the role of Sullivan. Simmonds, who is deaf, is distant cousins with Keller, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
‘Helen & Teacher’ is set in the early 1900s, during Keller’s “tumultuous time at Radcliffe College of Harvard University when her rapidly expanding worldview and sexual awakening brings her into direct conflict with the more conservative Sullivan. When Ms Sullivan is courted by the young and brilliant publisher, John Macy, tensions escalate between the two women threatening the bonds of their friendship,” according to a synopsis of the film, as per Deadline.
The upcoming biopic comes from director Wash Westmoreland, who has helmed films like ‘Still Alice’ and ‘Colette’. In a statement, Westmoreland said ‘Helen & Teacher’ shows a new side of the disability rights advocate not widely known to the public.
“Most people only know of Helen Keller’s story from when she was a child. Helen & Teacher will look at her as a young adult when she developed a radical, world-changing political voice,” he said.
“Today, when some TikTok threads dispute Helen Keller’s achievements and even her existence, it is time for a film that shows her relevance, her brilliance and her unbreakable spirit,” Westmoreland added.
Simmonds booked her first major role in ‘Wonderstruck’, in which she starred alongside Julianne Moore. Since then, she’s gone on to appear in the John Krasinski horror film ‘A Quiet Place’ and its sequel, ‘A Quiet Place Part II’. Her credits also include ‘Andi Mack’, ‘This Close’ and ‘Close Up’.
The actor told People magazine in 2017 that she hopes more deaf people “have the opportunity to become actors” in the future, and opened up about her own unexpected entry into the industry.
“I never thought about becoming a professional actress. I thought I was going to be a cop or a fireman, something that involved danger,” she said at the time.
“But I was always comedic and would tell stories and use a lot of expressions. My high school drama teacher recognized that I had talent and asked permission from my mom so that I could join the drama club. I was in several school performances, mainly Shakespeare and comedic roles. I just accidentally became an actor. I totally didn’t expect this,” Simmonds added.
‘Helen & Teacher’ comes from a screenplay by Laetitia Mikles and Westmoreland, who consulted with the Helen Keller National Center for Youth and Adults. Principal photography on the film will begin next year, and a premiere date has not yet been set.