Utah native and rising young actor Millicent Simmonds first garnered a tremendous amount of attention last year, starring as the young deaf girl Rose in Todd Haynes’ delicate and melancholy Wonderstruck. The film was a big-screen debut for Simmonds, who is deaf in real life and had been acting on stage for many years prior in Utah.

But it’s her follow-up role as Regan Abbott in director/co-writer/star John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place earlier this year that got her noticed and praised by the world at large for her portrayal of a character who blames her own affliction for the death of a family member in a world where sound-triggered alien monsters attack with lightning speed. The film is especially interesting because the rest of Regan’s family — played by Krasinski, Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe — must adapt in many way to the world of a deaf person in order to be quiet. American Sign Language is the preferred method of communication and colored warning lights are used to warn other family members of impending danger back at the homestead.

The relationship between Krasinski’s father character, Lee, and Regan is strained, and the anxiety, guilt, and shame is expertly expressed by Simmonds, herself a dedicated advocate and activist for the deaf community, especially in the arts. /Film sat down with the 15-year-old actress in Chicago last week to discuss (through a Sign Language interpreter) the nuances of the role of Regan and her hopes for the types of roles she’s offered moving forward in her career. A Quiet Place will be released on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, and on various streaming services on Tuesday, July 10.

When you get this script and you see that it’s part horror movie, part action film, family drama—basically everything Wonderstruck wasn’t—was there anything about taking on this role that made you nervous or excited? What was your reaction?

So when I first read the script, I already knew that the story was really unique and special because it had a story to tell, there was a great storyline. When I auditioned for this part, I did feel a little bit nervous because…well, it’s kind of hard to put into words, but I think I was nervous because this movie required a lot more emotion and fear to be evoked, and there was this creature that would be chasing me, and that’s not something I’ve experienced in my life. I needed to work on that part. But when I auditioned, I tried my best, and throughout the filming, John and everyone else helped out, so I was really glad for that.

Were you a horror film fan before making this? If so, what were some of your favorite horror films?

I think if I had to pick my favorite one, it would be Signs. I really liked that. The scenario felt very similar to A Quiet Place. It was set on a farm, and they used the radio to signal back and forth with this aliens, so it was a unique parallel.

Was there anything about the physicality of your role that intrigued you or made you nervous, because the physical and the emotion are closely tied?

I was definitely interested in that aspect of it. It’s great exercise, obviously. I had the help of a lot of people, and we were constantly running and experiencing fear. With the scene with the truck bouncing all around, that was really physical as well. But I felt like I really related to the character, which helped me as well.

What did it mean to you to realize that this family basically had to live a life that your character was very familiar with—a world of quiet where Sign Language was the primary means of communication and the way they used lights as a warning device? Was that cool that in a lot of ways, the film is built around the way your characters lives?

Yeah, it was really cool. In a lot of deaf people’s homes, if you right on the doorbell, it’s connected to a light and it flashes, so it felt very similar. In the movie, it was a red light for danger, and that would help people know what was happening. And Sign Language was a really unique part of it as well because you didn’t have to yell or make any noise because you could communicate using Sign Language, which was a great advantage.

With John and Emily being a married couple in real life, did that make the entire family dynamic of these characters feel more real to you?

During rehearsals, we talked a lot about how we would feel about different characters, and they actually invited us over to their house for barbecues, and we got to learn a little bit more about John and Emily, and they got to learn more about us. So we felt like we were really involved in their lives personally and we felt more connected, and then we were able to learn more about each other on an intimate level, which was really smart on their part, because that connection was really authentic. John and I would constantly be communicating during filming; I felt like I could talk to him anytime I needed to, especially if we were trying to play out scenes before we filmed them.

When the film first came out, I know a lot of people asked you if you would be interested in doing a sequel or prequel. I’m actually wondering if John described to you at all the family’s backstory and what they were like before this invasion.

He talked a little bit about how, as a child, I liked to paint and liked art, and I was interested in a lot of mechanical things because of my father—for instance, the Cochlear implant and how that operated. I don’t know about other roles, family history, or that much more about their backstory besides what we learn from the film itself.

As a new actor, what did you learn about the craft of acting from just watching your co-stars, especially Emily?

Honestly, Emily makes it look so easy. There was one scene, I think she had to cry in it, and I could feel that that was the most terrifying moment of her life. Her children are in danger, she could die at any moment, and you felt it. You could sense the urgency of her wanting to protect her family at any cost and her willingness to sacrifice her life. I couldn’t even imagine doing that, and she made it look so easy. When we were off set, we were drinking water, having something to eat, chit-chatting, and then as soon as they yell “Action,” she’s on. It’s truly amazing. John was great as well. I was able to learn so much from both of them and how they act just by watching and how they emoted things. It was all really inspiring to me.

One of things you do so well in this film is express guilt. Your character feels responsible over a family member’s death, and she sometimes feel that her deafness is somehow responsible for it or is a burden to the family. Where does that emotion come from in you? Where did you draw from to get there?

I think I felt like I really connected with the character because I could imagine how she felt. She didn’t want to be deaf; being deaf was her weakness, and she didn’t know how to handle it. At any minutes, she could knock something over and cause the monsters to come, or not be able to warn someone. Or even if the monsters were hunting her, she wouldn’t know. And I resonated with her because as a child, I wanted to feel like I could hear and be involved with family and joke with people and not have to have it be a struggle. I wanted it to be easier for me. So for different reasons, I can relate to her, and we also have very similar goals of wanting to hear. But the character used this weakness as a strength and she was extremely brave; she had so much power, and it changed her life and her family’s life, which was really inspiring to me as a person. I think through this character, I want to be a better person and be able to help people.

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