In Season 9, The Walking Dead fans were introduced to on-screen sisters Connie (Lauren Ridloff) and Kelly (Angel Theory). While aiding the Alexandria community in attempting to defeat Alpha and The Whisperers, Kelly has been fighting a battle of her own. In the Season 10 premiere, viewers learned that Connie’s younger sister is starting to lose her hearing.
This Walking Dead storyline was inspired by the actor’s own personal life, as Angel is deaf in one ear and is progressively losing her hearing in the other. In an email interview with Insider, Angel opened up about her character’s journey in Season 10.
Is The Walking Dead star Angel Theory deaf?
After being cast on the AMC series, Angel — whose character works as an American Sign Language interpreter for her deaf sister Connie — the actor learned that her condition was progressing. A car accident caused extensive nerve damage to the star. "Now I wear hearing aids in both ears, but my audiologist informed me of the possibility of hearing aids not being enough for me as time goes on," Angel told Insider via email.
When the writers of the series learned about Angel’s progressive loss of hearing, they sent her an email asking if she would be comfortable sharing her personal story through her character Kelly's storyline. “When I think about my story being represented through Kelly, it brings tears to my eyes (happy tears) because it reminds me of how much Ms. Kang [showrunner Angela Kang], the writers, and AMC believed in me from the very beginning," she explained.
She added: "It also shows me how much I have grown through one of my most life-changing experiences." In the Season 10 premiere, when Connie confronts Kelly about her sister's hearing rapidly declining, she at first denies it. Connie encourages Kelly to embrace her new reality stating via ASL that it's “a damn superpower," and not a disability.
"I never knew how important it was for others to see representation through myself and Lauren,” Angel explained to the outlet. “It's a beautiful feeling to know that my story could help someone even in the slightest way.”
Angel revealed that the AMC writers are working with the actor to accurately portray people in the deaf/HoH (Hard of Hearing) community. "They could have just wrote-in whatever they find on Google, but instead they asked me and took the time to understand the good, the bad, and everything in between," she wrote to Insider.
As the series continues to explore Kelly dealing with her progressive hearing loss and learning to survive in this dangerous world, showrunner Angela explained the reason why Angel’s personal story was implemented into the show’s storyline.
"We have to deal with the fact that at a certain point, the actress herself may not be able to hear," she explained to Insider. "Rather than fighting against that, we just thought we'd make it part of the story."
Catch new episodes of The Walking Dead on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.