Daequan Taylor, Cheyanna Clearbrook, Renate Rose and Rodney Buford are the subjects of the new Netflix docuseries produced by Nyle DiMarco. Deaf U follows the students’ day-to-day lives at Gallaudet, the famed Washington D.C. private college for the deaf and hard of hearing. During Netflix’s leg of the virtual CTAM tour Tuesday, the students and DiMarco spoke about their experiences filming the show and what they hope the streamer audience can take away from the series.
“The point of it all is that deaf people are human. We’re the same as human people, we go through the same as hearing people,” DiMarco signed through an ASL interpreter.
The exec producer, who made history as America’s Next Top Model‘s first deaf winner in 2015, grew up hoping to study at Gallaudet, where he attended almost 10 years ago. His time at the premier school inspired him to highlight not only the experiences of today’s students, but also encouraged him to emphasize the differences in each of them, he said.
“I wanted to see diversity and layers in the community,” DiMarco shared.
The students who hail from different parts of the country, from the East Coast to the Midwest, all came to Gallaudet with different deaf backgrounds. Some had family members who were also deaf and others lost their hearing at a young age. Taylor, who was a graduating senior at the time of filming, was born with hearing abilities but lost them at 6 years old when an accident led to a bone growing over his ear drum.
“Once I got into Gallaudet, it took me two years to learn ASL,” Taylor said about his different deaf background. “I get to bring in a new deaf culture.”
When it comes to deaf representation on screen, New York native Cheyenna Clearbrook said that she joined the show hoping to “break boundaries down for everyone” and redefine what it means to be hard of hearing or deaf. Kansas student Renate Rose shared the same sentiments, noting that “being involved in a show that’s going to be distributed on Netflix is a huge deal,” not solely for the members of the show but for the deaf community as a whole.
“Deaf people can do what you all do. The only thing we can’t do is hear,” Burford said. “You see we have our own college, have our own culture. We have our own challenges but the culture’s so rich.”
Deaf U comes to Netflix on October 9. The docuseries is also exec produced by Eric Evangelista, Shannon Evangelista and Brandon Panaligan. The series is one of the two deaf community-centered titles coming to Netflix.
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