Deaf actor and British Sign Language user Danny Murphy was cast as Wesley in this year’s release of The Parts You Lose, where he had to learn American Sign Language for the role and worked alongside a cast including Aaron Paul. With his comedy show The Danny Murphy Show, he has recently toured America, and has a YouTube channel and Facebook page where he uploads comedy sketches. We found out from Danny about touring with The Danny Murphy Show, filming for The Parts You Lose and being an anti-bullying ambassador.
What was Wesley like to play in The Parts You Lose?
It was a very different experience for me because I have a deaf family and we always use sign language to communicate with each other. We always support each other and we are a very happy family.
But, regarding my role as Wesley, life is a bit different, Wesley has a hearing family and his dad abused him and wouldn’t let him use sign language, which is, in fact, very disgraceful. I had to “display” a more restrictive family environment to show the true colours of the family.
My character Wesley is a very quiet person and he was always being bullied by the students from school.
It’s really weird because I am very outgoing, I love to chat and am very friendly with everyone, unlike Wesley. One big thing is that my first language is British Sign Language, and Wesley in the movie uses American Sign Language (ASL); so, in order for me to learn a new language for me, I had to deal with it. However, I loved learning American Sign Language because I am so keen on learning new things for myself.
Can you tell us about your role in the film?
Wesley’s role is a deaf boy who has a hearing family and they always speak to each other without using Sign Language, that caused Wesley to feel alone and quiet. In addition to that, he usually got bullied from the students at his school.
Then, as the plot goes, Wesley found a man who is a dangerous fugitive and he wanted to know more about him.
Wesley hid the dangerous man in the barn and offered treatment to him. Meanwhile, Wesley’s family weren’t aware of the fugitive except for a police officer who began to suspect that Wesley was up to something. Wesley started to like the fugitive man because he taught him to be brave and stand up for himself. Moreover, that fugitive was willing to learn sign language for him as opposed to his own family.
How did you get involved with the cast, which included Aaron Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead?
My fan ‘Johnny Critser’ (he is now my personal assistant) sent me info about the audition encouraging to try out for the role and I decided to audition for it – but I felt that I wouldn’t get this part because it’s for ASL signing boys and many people auditioned for this film.
But I got good news, they requested me to go to Canada for a final call audition and I flew to Winnipeg, Canada and met Christopher Cantwell, a director from this movie, he pretended to be Wesley’s father and I pretended to be Wesley and we acted the scene out and they kept the footage of me.
After that, I returned to England and a few days later they emailed my parents informing them I got this part! I was so excited over the good news.
How was it learning American Sign Language for the role?
I love ASL and I was able to quickly learn it.
But I’m nervous when I use ASL on stage or in the front of the cameras, but I seem to pull through each time, thankfully because I have an ASL tutor/mentor named Joanna Kucharski Hawkins from Canada and she taught me a lot. Right now, I am still learning more ASL because I believe that I will be in more movies, if movie producers see my talent in acting.
What’s the experience like presenting TV shows on CITV and CBBC?
This is pretty different from the previous Hollywood production with the film The Parts You Lose, it was so fun and gave me lots of experiences for different job roles and wacky challenges. Episodes on CITV and CBBC are released very quickly, but the movie took a long time to get released. I love any type of film production nonetheless, all of them are so much fun!
Can you tell us about your comedy sketches and how you come up with the ideas?
Sometimes I ask for ideas from the deaf community and I just get tons of ideas for this! I make scripts for the skits and I start filming myself for a few hours but it’s not the easy part.
The hard part actually is that I have to edit each video for twelve hours, just for three minutes of video. I also I have to add the Captions as well.
I have plenty of ideas to create these videos, but I have been very busy lately and it’s difficult for me to post new comedy videos as regularly as before.
You toured with The Danny Murphy Show, how did this go and are there plans to do more?
Recently, I went to Colorado, Kansas and Texas and it’s very amazing to travel to see beautiful sights and many fans love my show and asked me to make more videos.
It encourages me to do this. I can see the audience laugh so hard and that is pretty much my experience. Of course, my acting job and doing comedy are two completely different things because I always use facial expressions and tell many jokes but in this movie, I don’t use facial expressions very much and I had to act quiet and it was very emotional for me!
Anyway, I’m looking forward to more travels all over the world for my show, I love meeting new deaf people and communicating with them.
How did it feel being nominated at the Chronicle Champions Awards, and winning The Diana Award from the British Deaf Association?
I didn’t expect that to happen! They just nominated me and emailed me straightaway. I’m so excited and feel very grateful for this award and it has inspired me a lot so I feel like doing much more.
Can you talk about being an anti-bullying ambassador?
Being an anti-bullying ambassador, many hearing students bullied me around in the old mainstreamed school and I have had enough of this. I made a video about it and I went to a new school and nobody bullied me anymore.
But I notice some deaf people bullied one another and I told them to stop. They kept being curious as to why I always asked them to stop it, because I’m an anti-bullying ambassador.
On the other hand, I always have a tendency to make a joke over someone and I didn’t realise it upset some folks. That made me a better person as I learned from many experiences in life.
Some kids were jealous I’m the anti-bullying ambassador, which is very disappointing, but I won’t let them pull me down. The people who always say, “you can’t” and “you won’t”, are probably the ones that are scared that you will fulfil it!
What is Deaffest like to be part of?
I’d never been to Deaffest before, but I’d heard about it. They asked me to go there and I just said “YES!” because I always wanted to go to the Deaffest! I went there and it was a huge experience for me! I met lots of deaf filmmakers, they knew about me and gave me lots of advice, I learned from all of them.
I did perform on the stage with another deaf comedian John Smith and many people loved it! I will go to Deaffest again!
How did you get into acting?
I didn’t plan for this, but my parents said that I just started to act naturally. I always wanted to be an actor in the theatre and the movies and I did! You must always have a goal and dreams and they will come true!
Have you got any advice for a Deaf young actor starting out in the industry?
Don’t be desperate for this, I know many deaf young actors want to become a famous actor. It is hard for us to find the movie roles because there aren’t enough opportunities for young deaf actors.
But, if there is an audition, break a leg! Don’t be nervous or be close-minded, we must break the barrier to show them who you are! I wish them good luck in finding acting roles in major films.
What do you enjoy doing away from the camera?
I spend time on social media, spend time with my family and play sports. But for now, I must spend my time on GCSE homework because I will have big tests next year! Wish me luck!
What are your career plans over the next few months?
I really don’t know, I would like to become a filmmaker in college and maybe do more movies/TV work offered in the future. I love acting, I was born to act and it is in my family blood because everyone in the family are a ham for the cameras and they can act pretty good too!
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