Meet the Brooklyn Man Who Made ‘Sound of Metal' Possible, Taught Riz Ahmed ASL
On a soundstage in Brooklyn, Jeremy Lee Stone pulls you in with a sample of his American Sign Language (ASL) slam poetry.
"To state it as simply as possible, ASL is art," Stone told NBC New York.
The Harlem native, who was born deaf, has been spreading that message for years as an ASL teacher and founder of ASL Elements, a performance competition group aimed at raising awareness and celebrating ASL.
But nothing he's done - to share the power and joy of ASL - compares to his roll in the Oscar-nominated film "Sound of Metal." Up for six awards at this year's ceremony, the film, directed by Brooklyn native Darius Marder, has a shot at winning multiple awards.
In the film, Stone plays an ASL teacher helping heavy metal drummer Ruben, played by Riz Ahmed, who loses his hearing.
Stone's role as teacher in the film was played out behind the scenes as well.
"Jeremy Stone, my ASL instructor, was really, absolutely central in helping to understand, begin to understand the experience of someone who might be losing their hearing and welcoming me into the Deaf community," Ahmed said in an interview with IMDb.
"Riz really launched himself into - not only learning the language - but learning about the culture, being a part of the community. He completely stripped his identity and removed his privilege to be authentic in this role," Stone said.
It was a seven month process, an immersion in Deaf culture, everything from parties and performances. Through it all, a friendship was forged between the pair. Ahmed even attended Stone's wedding.
"Too often there are assumptions made about the Deaf community and its culture. So that was my role through this project, to make sure that the impact on my community was not shown through the lens of stigma. So I'm appreciative that I was able to oversee the entire process of this film to maintain its authenticity," said Stone.
That means you don't see hearing actors playing Deaf characters, and you experience very facet of the language.
"ASL takes various forms of expression. It can be used artistically, in comedy, in horror, with spoken languages, to represent culture. It is a range of expression," Stone said.
It's something the world will get to experience again on Sunday at the 93rd Academy Awards.
"Our future goals are to truly recognize, represent and spotlight my Deaf community. To showcase what Deaf means to the broad entertainment industry," he said.