Gee Whiz, Giant News!

15 Dec
A still from the new show!

You guys! THIS is the reason I haven’t had any new books out in a really long time!

For the past three years, and mostly from the comfort of my own home, I have been writing, producing and even narrating a three-episode animated adaptation of my book, El Deafo, for Apple TV+! And now it’s almost here! Check out this cool trailer:

My co-writer and co-producer is my very good friend, the one and only Will McRobb! Yeah, that Will McRobb — the one who co-created one of my all-time favorite shows, The Adventures of Pete & Pete! (Check it out. It’s one of the funniest and weirdest shows ever created.) Will showed me the ropes and then let me be in the driver’s seat, always lending his talents and expertise and support along the way. Will and I are so excited to share this production with you.

I signed on to do this show because it felt like an opportunity to present, on the powerful medium of streaming, a deaf person who uses a hearing aid to help them hear (like me). When I was a kid watching TV and movies as a kid (and sometimes even as an adult), the few deaf people portrayed (the ones wearing hearing aids, at least) were often objects of ridicule, the butt of the joke. Sometimes, even the hearing aid itself got mocked. This show felt like my chance to share, as authentically as I can, a deaf character who is also a real person, with all of the same ups and downs, hopes and dreams — and goofy crushes — as everyone else.

There’s so much to tell you guys! And where to start? Well, it’s directed by Gilly Fogg of Lighthouse Studios in Ireland. Gilly guided the animators to stay true to the look of the book, while encouraging them to give all the characters these incredibly nuanced performances. Gilly also did all the voice directing (of me, too), and what a treat it was to watch her in action! She’s such a bright talent, and a wonderful friend, too. I actually made a lot of new friends at Lighthouse, and the entire team (I think I counted 133 names in the credits!) is to be commended.

The kid version of me is played by Lexi Finnigan, a new young actress who is also deaf (she uses cochlear implants to help her hear). This was Lexi’s first experience acting, and she really aced it. She sounds authentic because she is authentic (and still a kid); in fact, all the kids in the show (and there are a lot of ‘em) are voiced by actual kids. Yay!

Pamela Adlon (you might know her from Better Things, but to me she will always be Dolores from Grease 2) plays my mom… Jane Lynch (from everything) plays my teacher, Mrs. Sinklemann… and Clancy Brown (Rawhide from Buckaroo Banzai for fellow old-timers) is gym teacher Mr. Potts.

Katie Crutchfield (more famously known as Waxahatchee) wrote the beautiful theme song as well as two other fun songs for the show…and Michael Andrews (who composed the music for Freaks and Geeks, my favorite TV show ever), scored the episodes, giving everything a gorgeous seventies feel that will warm even the coldest heart.

And oh yeah, the sound design: Just like the book uses speech balloons to illustrate what I hear and don’t hear, you’ll hear the sounds of the show almost entirely from my point of view. Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van Der Ryn of E2 Sound (they did A Quiet Place, y’all!) worked tirelessly to grok what we were trying to do, and then did a fantastic job making it happen.

None of this would have happened without the amazing support of the team at Apple TV+, particularly that of Tara Sorensen, head of children’s programming at Apple, who never stopped believing in this project, and who really, really listened to all that I had to say. And there are so many, many people (you won’t believe the machine that is streaming TV) who have been working long hours to make the show (and me) look really good. I’m truly grateful for their time and talents.

For the folks who lovelovelove the book: yes, the show is different in a lot of ways, but Will and I worked tirelessly to make sure that the heart of it is all there. And I think you’ll love how wild the El Deafo fantasies get! I hope you’ll see it not just as a companion piece to the book, but as something to genuinely enjoy on its own terms.

This is my own unique story, and it’s important to me to repeat what I say in the Author’s Note at the end of the book: I am an expert on no one’s deafness but my own. But we are all experts on what it’s like to feel different from everyone else, and to be lonely — and so my biggest hope for this show is that it will be good company to anyone who needs a friend.

I hope you’ll check it out! Premiering Friday, January 7th!

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