CUNY alum Lauren Ridloff makes it big in Marvel



Arianne Gonzalez, Arts & Culture Editor

Hunter College alumni Lauren Ridloff joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the first deaf superhero in the movie “Eternals,” released on Nov. 5 and directed by Chloé Zhao.

Ridloff portrays Makkari, one of the ten beings known as “Eternals” who came to Earth to protect humanity from threatening creatures known as “Deviants.” She fought alongside her fellow celestial immortals, some of whom are played by Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Kumail Nanjiani.

“It felt like it was a lifetime of waiting,” Ridloff said to Variety about being the first deaf actor to play a superhero. “I didn’t really see anyone like myself ever represented on the screen.”

For the 43-year-old actress, who has been deaf since birth, being cast in the Marvel Universe was a life changing event. According to CUNY, it meant for her that “my two boys, who are also deaf, will grow up in a world where there are superheroes who are deaf.”

She is not only the first deaf superhero, but also the first deaf and Black, Mexican American superhero.

“I really don’t get up in the morning and think, okay, I’m deaf or I’m Black, or I’m Latina,” Ridloff told Latina. “I just get up and say, I have to get my boys ready for school. I have to talk with my manager today. So that’s really who I am. I’m a mother, a wife, and a former teacher.”

Ridloff also represents CUNY students on the big screen. She earned her graduate degree in education from Hunter College in 2005 and taught kindergarten and first grade at P.S. 347; a school for deaf, hard of hearing kids or children born to deaf parents.

CUNY students are receiving her performance with praise and recognizing that her accomplishment is a great feat for the community.

“I think thats actually really cool!” Schneider Galeano, a junior at Baruch College, said in a Google form promoted by The Ticker. “I didn’t know that she was a CUNY alumni so it just makes me root for her even more. I think its vital that we see people with disabilities of all spectrums get their representation on movies and tv, so I thought it was so cool to see her act in the movie.”

Senior Naeema Ismail noted that Ridloff ‘s casting brings an “equality and unity” in the film, and that her CUNY background was not a hindrance to her success.

“Anyone can make it in the movie industry even from colleges that don’t specialize in acting,” she said.

Ridloff’s acting career is relatively recent, with some credits in 2011, 2016 and 2017.

According to The New York Times, she became Broadway Director Kenny Leon’s tutor to teach him sign language and deaf culture in preparation for his directed revival of “Children of a Lesser God” in 2018.

When read-throughs were being held, there was yet to be a leading actress cast opposite leading man Joshua Jackson, Leon had Ridloff read as a placeholder. She got the part of Sarah Norman right there and gained a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play.

After that, she was cast as Connie in the zombie television series, “The Walking Dead” and Diane in “Sound of Metal.”

Now with her first major role in a feature film, Ridloff said she is hopeful that her role will help continue the conversation of representation and accessibility in an industry that hasn’t been so accommodating to person of color or people with disabilities.

“We need to have deaf writers and creative talent involved in the process of planning film projects from the beginning,” she said to The New York Times.

She said she also hopes that improvements would be made in making movies generally accessible to the hard of hearing and deaf communities.

“We just need to normalize subtitles,” Ridloff said to Variety. “Right now, all of us are so visual, and we’re so dependent on text — a lot of hearing people are.”

She said she believes that the increase of people texting and using social media is evidence of this.

“So why not allow that to infiltrate the movie theater?” Ridloff said. “Why don’t we just start incorporating text into subtitling in movies? I think everybody truly would benefit from it on the screen. It really would help.”