Amanda McDonough’s recent credits include: NBC’s “Bad Judge,” ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth,” Chris Lilly’s Pilot series “Just Us Guys,” and films such as “Listen” directed by Michaela Higgins and “Silent Star” directed by Steven Sanders. Her films “Passengers” and “Loud and Clear” have gone on to show in various festivals and win awards. Amanda’s life story has even been the subject of documentaries such as USC’s “Amanda” and radio broadcast stories such as KCRW’s “Silence.”
Amanda McDonough is an actress, speaker, advocate and author who grew up just outside of LA, where acting came as second nature to her. At the age of 4, Amanda was inspired by her mother, who was an actress, to pursue her acting passion. At the age of 5 Amanda signed with her first agent and booked her first professional acting job, a national Honda commercial. Soon after she booked a guest lead role in an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries,” followed by an extensive list of commercials. At the same time she discovered her love of the theater. She debuted at 5 years old as an orphan in “Annie.” As she grew she went on to play the leads in productions including “The Music Man,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Taming of the Shrew” and many more. She graduated with honors from high school and was eighth in her class. She pursued higher education at California Polytechnic University, Pomona where she received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Administration- International Business and Marketing Management, with an emphasis in Entertainment Marketing.
Amanda is an advocate for Deaf rights, Equal Opportunity Education and Animal Rights. She currently resides just outside of LA.
Bio from www.amanda-mcdonough.com [using with permission from Amanda McDonough for this exclusive interview with The Silent Grapevine].
You’ve been acting since a very young age, since you were four years old, of all the acting performances you’ve done so far, which is the most memorable for you?
I had a co-star role on an episode of NBC’s comedy “Bad Judge.” Booking that role was the first time I had openly identified myself as an actress who is also Deaf to a big network Casting Director and to my surprise they cast me based on my talent, not my Deafness. I got to play a hearing person: a sign language interpreter. In that role, I was able to use my voice to speak English for some lines and use my hands to express American Sign Language for others. It was an amazing feeling to have the industry acknowledge my talent and see my experience as a Deaf person and my bilingualism as a skill rather than a limiting factor. I wish that would happen on more projects! The word “Deaf “ doesn’t need to be in the character description for any actor who is Deaf to bring that character to life.
What was the last project you headed up, and what was its outcome?
I am currently collaborating as a producer with the talented Director/Actor Dickie Hearts and Writer/Actor Joseph Ausanio on a project called “The Deaf Talent Project” which is geared towards raising awareness about Deaf professionals in the entertainment industry. It is currently in production so stay tuned to see the outcome!
What was the most difficult period in your life, and how did you deal with it?
I was diagnosed with hearing loss when I was 4 years old and chose to hide it from the world till I was 22. “Acting” hearing everyday of my life and not having an identity or access to language or community support while my hearing gradually decreased was a tough way to grow up. The most difficult period in my life was when I became 100% Deaf in both ears and was forced to figure out my identity. At the time I didn’t have any Deaf or Hard of Hearing role models I could relate to or ties to the Deaf community. There was no one to help me. I had to figure it all out on my own: a new language, new culture, new ways of doing everyday tasks without being able to hear. It was tough but I did a lot of research, put myself in situations where I could meet people who were Deaf like me, asked as many questions as I could, signed up for free sign language classes at a local church, practiced using YouTube videos and never gave up, even when it was hard or I felt like an outcast. I just kept learning and growing and taking risks. I am still learning and growing in my Deaf identity.
What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made in the last two years and how did you come to that decision?
I used to get bullied a lot online. Often by people who didn’t think I “acted Deaf enough,” who didn’t like that I simcommed in a video, or who teased me for my beginners signing. I used to let it really effect me. It took a while for me to finally feel confident enough in myself to understand that there is no one way or right way to be Deaf and that there was nothing wrong with my style, personality or identity. Then I made a decision to never let negative people hurt me like that again. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I just don’t take those opinions personally anymore.
As a Deaf Youtuber, what are you looking for in terms of career development?
As a Deaf YouTuber my goal is to give people access to information they didn’t have before in an entertaining way. I do it because I wish I had that kind of access to information when I was growing up. I would love if my videos opened doors for me to start doing more inspirational speaking events all over the country. I currently do inspirational speaking for kids, high schools, and adults here in California in English or American Sign Language but would love to do it more. I really enjoy helping people find strength within themselves by sharing my experiences.
As an actress, what’s your overall goal to accomplish?
Acting is my passion and if I can be successful at what I love and use the platform it creates to effect positive change in this world then that would be a dream come true for me.
My overall goal is to maintain a long successful acting career in TV and film and use my voice to educate the mainstream media and the general public about the Deaf and others with disabilities in an effort to create a more understanding community and accessible future for everyone.
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference? Inspired you?
My mother was my first manager when I started acting at about 4 years old, she was my chauffeur, my acting coach and my cheerleader. To this day her belief in me never waivers. When I have been shot down a million times, lost roles, missed opportunities, and start to lose faith in myself she reminds me to pull myself up by the bootstraps and try again. “Can’t” was never a word used in our house while I was growing up. She made sure I grew up knowing I can do anything. She inspires me every day.
How would you describe your work style?
I am a multi-tasker and a bit of a perfectionist. I show up early, leave late and never really stop working. I am constantly creating, studying or practicing something.
What are your future plans?
I wrote a book called “Ready To Be Heard” about my childhood, how I was born hearing and became Deaf, how I made it though mainstream schooling, my journey to discovering my Deaf identity as an adult and about following my dreams. It is scheduled to come out this year and I hope it brings hope and understanding to those who need it. So, I am excited to start promoting that book and hope one day to turn it into a film as well. I also have two feature films I am currently signed on to be a part of and new play that I will be performing in Los Angeles this year. Beyond that I’m keeping my eyes on the prize and working towards my dreams of winning an Oscar and having my own network television show!
Anything you want to promote or something we should be excited about?
I have an episode co-starring as Jenna on Freeform’s “Switched at Birth” in season 5 which should be showing late January or early February 2017 that I am excited about! Also, pre-sales of my book “Ready To Be Heard” will start being available in a few months on www.ReadyToBeHeard.com , and I am in a new Sign Language music video with other amazing Deaf talents directed by Sandra Mae Frank that is being released in February!
As I am able to release the names and dates of upcomming films, TV appearances, speaking engagements and plays I will post that information on: www.Facebook.com/OfficialAmandaMcDonough .
Completely Silly Random Questions:
What do you do in your spare time?
I love hiking and traveling! I also spend a lot of my free time cuddling with my rescue puppy, Charlotte, watching Netflix.
What is your favorite memory from childhood?
Disneyland! My dad and I had “Daddy/daughter Nights” at Disneyland on random Sundays when I was a kid. We would watch the bands at Tomorrowland Terrace and eat pizza. It was the best!
If you were an animal, which one would you want to be?
A dog definitely!
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
I would love to be able to teleport. I spend so much of my time trapped in LA traffic that being able to teleport would pretty much be the best thing ever! It would also make traveling around the world a lot cheaper.
You have the choice to live with a gorilla who knows sign language or a dog who sings lullabies, which do you choose?
Hmmmm I’m going to go with the singing dog.
If you had only six months left to live, what would you do with the time?
Spend it traveling and doing silly everyday things with my family.
The ten questions Lipton asks are:
What is your favorite word? Awesomesauce
What is your least favorite word? “Nevermind” because it’s usually used in the context of people not putting the effort into communicating with me.
What turns you on? Genuine Kindness
What turns you off? Elitism
What sound or noise do you love? The sound of the violin used to be my favorite sound in the world. I haven’t heard it since I was in Elementary school but I still dream about how it made me feel.
What sound or noise do you hate? I used to hate the sound of people chewing.
What is your favorite curse word? B****
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Teaching.
What profession would you not like to do? Plumbing.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “You did good with what I gave you.” -God