Shoshannah Stern made her debut in Thursday's episode of Grey's Anatomy and was welcomed by fans with open arms. The actress, who is deaf, plays Dr. Lauren Riley, who'll be a recurring character on ABC's long-running series moving forward. Additionally, her character marks the first time a deaf doctor has appeared in a recurring role on a primetime network series.
"Yup, I love Dr. Riley, I need more of her," tweeted one fan, while another wrote, "[Dr.] Riley came in with lots of respect and confidence for herself that made me love the female empowerment." A third declared that "Dr. Riley is amazing so far and I love her and vow to protect her."
Others were elated with the kind of representation her character will bring for deaf people everywhere. "Love that Dr. Riley is now on the show (coming from someone who fully speaks ASL!)," another fan tweeted. "Thanks, Greys for actually using someone who IS deaf and not just someone to portray a deaf person," added yet another.
"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. 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."
In the same interview, showrunner Krista Vernoff said she cast Stern after she "fell in love with her as a human, as a communicator, as an actress. I thought she was incredible and I wanted to put her on my show, Vernoff added. "I did not even know it had never been done before."
In addition to acting, Stern is also the creator and star of the Sundance TV series This Close, as well as portrays Eileen Leahy on The CW's Supernatural. Her latest role isn't her first medical drama, however, as she also appeared on an episode of ER way back in 2003.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.