Former Hollyoaks stars win Oscar and deliver speech in sign language

Ben Arnold

Rachel Shenton and Chris Overton, former stars of TV’s Hollyoaks, scooped the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film last night, with Shenton delivering her acceptance speech in sign language.

Picking up the award on stage for the film The Silent Child, she said: “I made a promise to our six-year-old lead actress that I’d sign this speech.

“My hands are shaking so I apologise. Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence.

“It’s not exaggerated or sensationalised for the movie, this is happening, millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers and particularly access to education.

“Deafness is a silent disability, I want to say the biggest of thank yous to the Academy for allowing us to put this in front of a mainstream audience.”

Rachel Shenton, left, and Chris Overton (Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The film focusses on a profoundly deaf child, played by deaf first-time actress Maisie Sly, and how her life is changed after she meets a social worker, played by Shenton, who teaches her sign language.

Shenton and Overton, who are engaged, said it was a shock to hear their names read out.

“Oh my god, we were absolutely surprised,” she told the BBC. “We’d seen all the other films in our category, and they were so brilliant, we kind of thought tonight is just a celebration whatever.

“But it was just such a shock when we heard our name. It’s crazy.”

Shenton as Mitzeee Minniver in Hollyoaks (Credit: C4)

Shenton had the idea for the film after her late father went deaf overnight following cancer treatment.

“I saw what huge effects deafness has on a family, and on a person,” she added. “It gave the impetus to learn sign language, and get involved in the deaf community, and I have ever since.

“I’ve been raising awareness and doing various campaigns for over 12 years now.”

Shenton and Overton, who directed the short, met on the long-running Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks playing the characters Mitzeee Minniver and Liam McAllister.

Former co-star Jorgie Porter tweeted her congratulations to the pair too.

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