Theory hopes to be the role model she wishes she had when she began losing her hearing.
When both Angel Theory and Lauren Ridloff were cast on "The Walking Dead," they became the show's first hard of hearing/deaf characters -- and upped representation for the hearing loss community on television in a big way.
While Theory was basically deaf in one ear when she joined the show, she began progressively losing her hearing in her other ear after the show's ninth season -- something which was also incorporated into the show's plot after conversations between the actress and the show-runners.
After landing the lead role in Crypt TV's new series "Kinderfänger," TooFab caught up with the actress to talk about why she's drawn to creepier projects, what having a deaf character brings to the story for both shows and what she'd like to see her "Walking Dead" alter-ego do before the show wraps.
Your two big roles so far have been "The Walking Dead" and now "Kinderfänger." Is there something that really attracts you to the horror genre?
"It's funny because I was actually really scared of scary movies when I was younger. I hated them. So, now I'm actually fascinated. I really love them a lot. And it just happens to be a coincidence that this is my second film that I'm working with something scary. It's an awesome experience. I like it a lot."
Do you know whether they were specifically looking to cast a deaf/hard of hearing actor for your role in "Kinderfänger"?
I believe that they were searching for people that were hard of hearing or deaf for this role, and my manager sent this to me and said, 'Hey, this is a new project, are you interested in this?' I read the script and everything and thought it was pretty cool. Over time, with the pandemic, after I got the job, there were certain characters that had to change because of the pandemic, it made it harder to actually find hard of hearing/deaf people that were perfect for the film, I believe. It was actually very easy going along with the whole production because they were very open hearted and just let me feel free giving ideas as much as possible.
In terms of horror, what do you think having a main character who is deaf/hard or hearing adds to the story and the tension?
I feel like it adds for hearing people a lot, the scariness, because the music behind the scenes, you can tell something bad is about to happen. For hard of hearing and deaf people, most of the time we don't know that the music is happening to tell the viewers that, 'Oh, there might be a person behind the door, or an evil entity or something like that.' Or this person don't have their hearing aids, so they can't hear what's happening around them. And for the hearing person, I feel like it's more scary than it actually is for the deaf and hard of hearing culture.
Like if you was walking outside and it's dark and you can't hear anything, you would kind of look back and forth to make sure nothing's behind you and for like a hard of hearing person, it’s kind of like, you know, we're used to it. It's nothing new.
What kind of adjustments have you made taking on new projects with your progressive hearing loss?”
A lot, honestly. For the most part, I grew up hearing. So, once I had to go through my hearing loss journey, I had to also adapt to it. My family, friends, the people I work with, everything was new. It felt like learning everything all over again, learning a whole new language, sign language, to communicate, as well. That wasn't something I was doing as a hearing person before, but I feel like it allows me to be able to be comfortable in all situations and even get better with change.
I think that's the most uncomfortable thing for people, is just adamant quick change. And I feel like this whole pandemic, 2020 in general has been a change for everybody, so it's kind of one of those things we gotta get through it and it's not about what happens, it's about how you come out of it. Stand strong so that allows other people that might relate to your story, for them to understand that if this person can do it, so can I. If she can get up through thick and thin, then so can I.
What made you want to transition from dancing to acting?
I'm still a dancer, still a choreographer, but I think it's just a completely different world. The dance world is completely different from acting. However, dance has helped me as an actress to learn how to use my body language a little bit more into my acting.
Starting off in 'The Walking Dead' as my first film, it was kind of shocking and exciting, but a lot of internal scariness was happening because I know I'm working with people that are seasoned actors and actresses that's been doing this probably before I was even born. I not only wanted to prove to you know, casting and the directors and the show-runners, everyone on 'The Walking Dead,' that believed in me, I'm going to do the best at what I do ... I like being under pressure.
What has surprised you the most about the casting process as a deaf person?
Not really. What I do think happens a lot is that -- and I know I used to do this when I was hearing as well -- people seem to assume a lot what being hard of hearing or deaf is like. Sometimes casting does it as well, where they think you can't understand certain things and certain situations. In reality, our job is to also show that just because we don't have our ears in a sense, our hearing in a sense, that we're still capable of everything else that everyone else can do. This doesn't stop me from anything, besides hearing [laughs].
We want to commend you on how you've worked with The Walking Dead to integrate your story into your character's story. How has it been collaborating on Kelly's journey?
They sent me an email saying, 'We know about your hearing loss and how it's progressive and we wanted to know if you feel about incorporating it into the story for Kelly?' And at first I was like, 'I don't know. I don't want to feel like that's the only thing I am, I was the girl that's losing her hearing. Even though this is happening in my real life, I don't know if I'm comfortable with that.' This is what I'm saying internally to myself.
And I had a talk with my mom, my manager and agents and everyone to see what their opinion was on it. And later on I realized, if I would've seen someone like me on screen while I was going through my hearing loss journey, I would've felt so much comfortable. It would've felt more like a breeze because I know I'm not the only one who's doing it. I know I could be that person for other people watching my work from home. To me it was just bigger than myself. Bigger than ego, or uncomfortability, it was making sure I could be the person I wish I had from before. It was just bigger than me.
What has the feedback been from the deaf community been like?
For the most part, from my hard of hearing and deaf supporters, a lot of them love [Kinderfänger]. They love that this doesn't feel completely that it's around just her being hard of hearing. That's not the point. It's not, 'Oh, she don't have great hearing so that's the moral of the story.' That's not it. It's the fact that, yes, she is a hard of hearing/deaf female, but she goes through problems like anybody else. She has household issues like anyone else.
I would feel like people assume that this is our only issue in life, and it's not. We're people. We go through heartbreak, pain, sadness, family drama and I feel like the show did really well with showing how much she was going through, and her real issue wasn't her hearing loss. It wasn't the issue at all. It was just the people that was in her life and the situation she was put into, unfortunately.
On Kinderfänger, her hearing loss is almost like her superpower, which Kelly also says on The Walking Dead.
Yeah. That's my mom's line. That's actually something she said to me when I was having a lot of trouble going through my hearing loss. So, that follows me everywhere now. That's basically what it means, not Spider-Man superpower of course, but I have something that everyone else doesn't. And sometimes that's just the ability to pay attention and observed. I feel like, honestly, once I went through my hearing loss ...I feel like it made me pay attention more to other people's body language and read the room, even if I wasn't necessarily trying to. It just happened more, it clicked more, so it is a superpower.
We know The Walking Dead is coming to an end after Season 11. What's something you'd like to see Kelly do before the big finale?
I would love to see Kelly ... probably just get angry. I don't know. She's a sweetheart. She's a sweetheart even when she has the right to be upset and angry. She thinks from other people's perspectives and doesn't act on emotion, and I think the one thing I haven't seen her do is just flip out and tell people how she feels.
She's very young and she's with a bunch of adults that's arguing, bickering and fighting and just to have a moment and be like, 'Hey guys, shut up!' Just to have a moment like that, but I feel like with what the writers have done with her so far has just been amazing.
Everybody assumed that once Kelly started to show her hearing loss in the show, that, oh. she's for sure gonna die. She's going through hearing loss? She can't hear, it's the apocalypse, she's going to die. You can’t hear the walkers, you're going to die. That's not what the writers wanted for Kelly. If anything, they wanted to show that you can still go through tough situations like this and persevere.
As for working with anyone specific on the show, I think Jeffery Dean Morgan or Andrew Lincoln. I mean, he's off the show now, but that would be awesome too.
Will you be part of the six episodes to drop in the Spring?
Yes, I will be a part of one of the six. I think I can say because they showed it, they showed our table read. It's going to be very exciting. I think the audience and the fans are going to have a lot to deal with when they see these episodes come out. I'm just excited for that.
Catch new episodes of "Kinderfänger" every Friday at 3pm PT / 6pm ET on Crypt TV's Facebook Watch page.