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The Transformation Of Lauren Ridloff From Childhood To Marvel's Eternals

Lauren Ridloff was born deaf to hearing parents in 1978. She was raised in Chicago, Illinois, and it would be two years before she was officially diagnosed as deaf, per The New York Times. Ridloff was a star student, even while attending a school with hearing children. At the age of 13, she stopped using her voice because she didn't want people to judge her for her vocal issues. She's an expert in sign language, which she is often seen using in movies and television shows in which she stars.

Ridloff picked up a love of the arts when she attended the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington, D.C. Her first acting role was in a school stage production of "The Wizard of Oz" as Dorothy. Additionally, Ridloff was a cheerleader and The New York Times noted she was one of the first deaf competitors in the sport who competed internationally. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ridloff would go on to become Miss Deaf America in 2000.

While Ridloff spent a lot of her early adult years working with the deaf and being a spokesperson for the National Association of the Deaf (via the Los Angeles Times), she pursued a career in publishing as a children's book author. She ended up teaching but eventually left her job to take care of her two deaf children full-time.

It wasn't until she worked as an American Sign Language tutor on the Broadway revival of "Children of a Lesser God" that she was swept into acting. Ridloff was filling in for the lead role during a read-through with actor Joshua Jackson.

Lauren Ridloff's acting career took off running after Broadway

In 2011, Lauren Ridloff nabbed her first official acting credit in the film "If You Could Hear My Own Tune." The movie was about two musicians who meet a deaf woman and how their new friend changes how they hear and feel about music. It would be five more years before Ridloff picked up another acting gig in the television series "Five Under Five." She only had a one-episode appearance, but it began the kick-off of her career.

Ridloff gained roles in "Wonderstruck" and "Sign Gene: The First Deaf Superheroes," both in 2017. According to The New York Times Style Magazine, she had minor roles in both films and served as a consultant on the former. In 2018, Ridloff had another one-off episode appearance in the vastly popular "Legacies" from The CW. While it was just another small role for her, one of her most significant roles to date was just around the corner.

Ridloff made a name for herself in The Walking Dead

In 2018, Lauren Ridloff was cast in AMC smash-hit "The Walking Dead." She joined the series well into its run in Season 9, Episode 5 ("What Comes After"). Ridloff plays Connie on the zombie series, a deaf survivor in Magna's (Nadia Hilker) group. She is also the sister of Kelly (Angel Theory), and the duo, along with some of their companions, make their way to Alexandria after being saved by Judith (Cailey Flemming).

Ridloff's role in "The Walking Dead" brings a new light to the series, as viewers are getting a better understanding of what it's like to be a deaf person in a time of chaos. Fans have applauded scenes where Connie is escaping walkers, as they are put in her shoes without the ability to hear as the show is silent.

According to director Meera Menon, Ridloff was instrumental in building her scenes to deliver authenticity. "We were always checking in with Lauren about what felt right," Menon told Insider. "There's a lot of looks that connect to Connie throughout the course of the episode once she hides in that field. She's spotting a lot of things. She's putting the puzzle pieces together based on what she sees. In terms of how I was staging it, I was always checking in with her to make sure, like, 'OK, can you really see this? Can you not see this? I want to make sure that it's real.'" Connie is still alive and well on the series, and as fans know, no one is ever safe on "The Walking Dead." Here's hoping she makes it out of the show alive when it concludes.

During this time, Ridloff was also cast in the critically acclaimed "Sound of Metal" with Riz Ahmed. Much like her real life, she portrayed a deaf school teacher named Diane and brought authenticity to the film.

Ridloff's road to becoming an Eternal

Lauren Ridloff got the opportunity of a lifetime when she met with Chloe Zhao, the Oscar-winning director of "Nomadland," about potentially starring as a superhero in "Eternals." Ridloff struck up a connection with Zhao immediately and even assigned her a name in American Sign Language. Ridloff was particularly blown away by Zhao's down-to-earth nature and recalled her second meeting with the filmmaker being peaceful when chatting with W Magazine.

Ridloff was able to bring aspects of her real-life personality to the role of Makkari, from her love of reading, her deafness, and the fact that she's a runner. While the character of Makkari is traditionally depicted as a male in the comics, Zhao gender-swapped the role because of how well Ridloff fit the part, much like Salma Hayek's Ajak and Lia McHugh's Sprite.

Makkari made it through the events of "Eternals" and is currently onboard a ship with Thena (Angelina Jolie) and Druig (Barry Keoghan) as they set off looking for more of their kind. Ridloff's character was definitely a fan favorite, and MCU stans are hoping to see more of the character in the future.