Ryan Lane - Climbing Over Obstacles
If you have ever been on a fashion set you would know that there are a million things going on at once. People running around, amazing creative ideas flying a mile a minute, and the perfect music to set the mood. Fashion sets are loud. So, working with Ryan was an amazing experience. Why? Because Ryan can't hear. So there was no need for music to pump him up and you can't speak English to him. Set was silent. All you could hear was the rushing waves from the ocean and maybe some slaps of the hands while we signed together. It was beautiful.
We recently highlighted deaf actor Ryan Lane's humanitarian work with Dogs For A Better Lives here, but we felt that Jejune's audience needed to learn more about this amazing man and deaf culture. So, please see below our interview with Ryan Lane.
Foreword by Kira Bucca, Editor and Chief of Jejune Magazine.
Please tell us how you got started in acting.
I got started in acting when I was in high school at California School for Deaf, Riverside. A Hollywood producer/director came to my school looking for someone who looked like the lead character in a documentary that he was making called "Dummy Hoy, a Deaf Hero. He found me in the yearbook and asked me if I was interested in playing the lead role of William "Dummy" Hoy.
What do you think your most influential role was and why?
Well I think that would have to be Travis. My other roles were obviously of deaf characters, but the story line for Travis was about a real and honest struggle that a lot of deaf people have. It opened peoples eyes to that struggle and I think has helped a lot of families dealing with the same issue.
Switched at Birth was a landmark show that actually taught the population a lot about deaf culture. Please tell us your thoughts on the show.
Honestly, this show is a great example for deaf culture. It has helped the deaf community not only in providing acting opportunities that are very rare in Hollywood, but also has brought attention to deaf culture and has helped the world understand a bit more about us. The creator, Lizzy Weiss went above and beyond with this groundbreaking show using multiple deaf characters and bringing the struggles that we can encounter in real life to light. She also took a gamble and made sure that every deaf character was played by a deaf or hard of hearing actor to stay true to deaf culture, which doesn't usually happen in Hollywood. It seems that most of the time the industry will opt for hearing actors with a bigger following for rating purposes. Lizzy and Switched at Birth has helped open up more opportunities for deaf actors as the industry is finding out that we are just as talented as hearing actors.
The show came to an abrupt end. Why do you think the network decided to cancel it?
Honestly I’m not sure why. It seems like there are very few shows, even the one's with big followings, that get canceled after a few seasons to make room for new shows. I guess that's really a question for the decision makers at Freeform.
I loved your role of Travis in Switched at Birth! I feel he gives a voice to a very underrepresented population, deaf children with hearing parents. Most people do not realize how common it is for hearing parents of deaf children to not know how to sign, or only do it very minimally. Please tell us your thoughts and feeling on this.
Being from a hearing family, I obviously could relate to Travis a lot. Although our struggles were the same in some areas, they were also different. During the show and after, I have continually gotten messages from fans on social media saying that because of Switched at Birth, their family and friends now understand how they feel and are now starting to learn sign language. You can't imagine how happy this makes me and what kind of change it has made in so many deaf kids lives.
For a long while hearing parents of deaf children were told not to learn how to sign, but rather to teach their children how to read lips and take speaking classes. What are you thoughts on this? Do you feel this has changed a lot?
Gosh, I really hope this doesn't happen anymore. That is exactly what happened to me. A program was recommended to my parents in my school district to "learn to listen" when I was 18 months old. My mom said looking back now, it was the craziest thing that she could imagine, but at the time, if they told her to jump off a bridge to help me, she would have. There was just really no information given to her on sign language classes. I feel that at the time a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, family sign language classes should be started immediately. It's been hard not having my entire family be fluent in ASL because I do have a hard time understanding everything from lip reading and feel like I miss a lot. They are getting better, but again, if an ASL program had been offered in the very beginning, things would be so different.
Do you think people are more aware of deaf culture these days?
I definitely think that people are more aware. High schools are now offering ASL as a second language, some restaurants are ASL friendly, and shows like Switched at Birth showing deaf characters have really opened up the peoples eyes. I feel like there are more and more hearing people who know sign language, which makes me so happy.
As a child who comes from a hearing parent and a hard of hearing parent, were you able to relate to Travis’s character?
Like I said before, I definitely related to Travis in some ways, but not others. The frustration struggle is real, but I think anyone who has a language barrier can relate to that.
How well does your family sign? How has that affected you?
My sisters know ASL (American Sign Language) they learned from me when we were little, and they both took ASL in high school. My parents know a little, and are trying to learn more. Not having my parents fluent in ASL is difficult and I feel that I have missed out on a lot of just day to day learning that is taken for granted when you're hearing.
Were you taught to read lips?
Yes, I have read lips since I was a kid and still do now.
What do you think the hearing community can do to better relate to the deaf?
If you want to kind of know how we feel, plug your ears for an entire day and try to communicate that way. It will give you a little look into our world. I think that a lot of people are afraid to try to communicate with the deaf because they don't know the language, so it's just easier to ignore, but honestly, you have no idea how much the deaf appreciate people who at least try.
If someone wanted to start learning American Sign Language (ASL), what would you recommend?
Find a good class at a community college or your high school. I think like any second language, it can be hard at first, so be patient.