“The Simpsons” will feature a deaf actor on Sunday for the first time in its 33-year history.
Even though the characters in the series only have four fingers, they will be using American Sign Language in this groundbreaking episode. And no, the episode wasn’t written after “CODA,” the movie about the hearing daughter of two deaf parents, won Best Picture at the Oscars last month.
“It’s very hard to ‘first’ after 722 episodes. But I couldn’t be more excited about this one,” executive producer Al Jean said. noted.
The episode is titled “The Sound of Bleeding Gums”. It centers on Lisa Simpson, who discovers that her favorite role model and musician, the late saxophonist Bleeding Gums Murphy, has a son who is deaf and needs a cochlear implant. Lisa gets a little too carried away trying to help the son, Monk Murphy.
Bleeding Gums Murphy died in Season 6.
The episode’s storyline is loosely based on the life of Loni Steele Sosthand, its lead writer.
“Loni offered to make Bleeding Gums Murphy’s son a man who was deaf from birth and could never hear his father’s music,” Jean told CNN.
Sosthand told CNN that the show’s producers consulted with two ASL specialists regarding the signs the characters make in the episode. Sign language specialists reviewed the animatics – raw versions of the show’s visuals – to ensure that despite the characters’ missing fingers, the meaning of the words was conveyed correctly.
Sosthand said the episode was personal to her and a labor of love. Her brother, Eli, is hard of hearing in a family that loves jazz music.
“Having a brother, who is only a year older, who was born deaf, has really shaped who I am as a person. So it’s a story that’s not just close to my heart, but to my heart. identity,” she said.
“There are many autobiographical themes in the episode relating to the tension between a love of music and deaf loved ones – themes also present in ‘CODA’, but very close to my own life,” she said. added.
Deaf actor John Autry II, whose credits include “Glee” and “No Ordinary Family”, plays Monk. In a statement, he called the role “life changing” for him.
“It’s about hard of hearing and hearing characters coming together,” he said. “It’s part of the story.”
The episode will also feature three children – Ian Mayorga, Kaylee Arellano and Hazel Lopez – from No Limits, a non-profit organization dedicated to deaf children. Seeing them record “Happy Talk”, a song from the musical “South Pacific” and featured at the end of the episode, was emotional for Sosthand.
“The song goes, ‘If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to achieve a dream. Watching them record, I had tears in my eyes the whole time realizing that this was a dream come true for all of us,” she said.
The historic episode comes two weeks after “CODA”‘s big moment at the Oscars. CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults, and the film chronicles the struggles of a hearing girl who wants to be a musician instead of joining her deaf parents’ fishing business.
The idea for the show was in the works long before the movie, said Jean, the “Simpsons” showrunner.
“Some of them are based on events that happened many years ago,” he said. “Of course, we are very happy with the success of CODA.”
Jean can’t wait to share Sunday’s episode with viewers and said he smiles every time he thinks about it.
“I’m a sucker for a happy ending,” he said, “even if it’s not quite the one you expect.”