'Grey's Anatomy' Actress Shoshannah Stern Talks Playing 'History-Making' Deaf Character on Show

Grey's Anatomy has cast actress Shoshannah Stern as new doctor Lauren Riley, who will be a recurring character in the long-running medical series, and she recently opened up the history-making role. Stern is deaf, as is her character, marking the first time a deaf doctor has appeared in a recurring role on a network primetime series. While speaking to Variety about the exciting news, Stern said this was something she's literally dreamed about. "It was always just me walking around in scrubs with the other doctors like I was one of them," she said. "I remember always having trouble adjusting when I woke up from these dreams, because they always felt so vividly real."

Stern's first episode in her new role is Thursday, titled "Save the Last Dance for Me." Showrunner Krista Vernoff also spoke with Variety, revealing that she had no idea the episode was going to be so historically significant until they began shooting, and that she initially chose Stern for the role because she was "smitten" with her.

"I fell in love with her as a human, as a communicator, as an actress," Vernoff said. "I thought she was incredible and I wanted to put her on my show. I did not even know it had never been done before."

Regarding how she has approached the role going into it, Stern revealed that she met with different real-life deaf doctors to better understand how their processes.

"It was most important to me that Riley was the best at what she did because, not in spite, of the fact that she’s deaf," Stern said. "It was also important that being deaf isn’t something that defines Riley, it just adds a unique layer to her."

She continued: "I loved how it was executed on the page, too, because Riley does eventually kind of touch on how her being deaf has actually helped her be as good as she is, but she’s kind of an enigma in that you never really know what she’s thinking or why she’s saying what she is."

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Stern is known for having appeared in shows such as Jericho, Weeds, Lie to Me, and Supernatural. Notably, she also once appeared on an episode of ER, back in 2003.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.