Early life, family, educational background
American producer, actor and writer, Sean Lance Berdy was born on 3 June 1993, in Boca Raton, Florida USA. He was raised with his younger brother, Tyler by Scott and Terrie Berdy, in a Hebrew Catholic family. All four of them are deaf. Sean was born deaf and is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), but he can speak English. He is of Irish-Russian ethnicity due to his father having Russian ancestry and his mother being of Irish descent; Sean has American nationality.
From a young age, Sean would put on comedic improv shows, with Tyler in charge of lighting; the shows ignited his passion for performing. When he was a young child, he was especially interested in magic. and won first place at the World Children’s Magicians Festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
From elementary school, he attended the Indiana School of the Deaf, and in 2010 during his sophomore year, he won the title of Mr. Deaf Teen America. The Model Secondary School started the pageant for the Deaf in 1999. Part of his duty as the winner was to travel the US and spread awareness of the disability. His travels and performances led him to matriculate remotely from California in 2011. He performed with the school’s arts touring group, Vibrations, when he was in high school, signing “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson in American Sign Language. He performed nationwide with the band, and the performances became popular, not only live, but also on YouTube on which a video of the performance was posted.
His acting career began in 2005, when he played the mischievous but lovable Sammy “Fingers” Samuelson in the film sequel, “The Sandlot 2,” which was narrated and directed by David Mickey Evans. In 2006 he played alongside Michael Angarano as the supporting role of Young Trey in the film “The Bondage,” directed and written by Eric Allen Bell. In 2008, he appeared as Nick in “The Legend of the Mountain Man”, and as Wesley in “The Deaf Family.”
From 2011 to 2017, he played in five seasons of “Switched at Birth”, moving to California to film the ABC Family series, and starring as the main character, Emmett Bledsoe, one of two deaf characters on the show. Marlee Matlin played Melody Bledsoe, Emmett’s mother; Vanessa Marano and Katie Leclerc were also permanent actors in the series.
Emmett is a photographer, rides a motorcycle and plays the drums in a band. Sean was awarded the Deaf Nation Inspiration Award for Entertainment for the positive influence his role brought to the deaf community, and the series was recognized for having encouraged people to learn American Sign Language, and for raising awareness of the deaf community.
In 2011, Sean was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for TV Breakout Star. In an interview with Time magazine, Sean shared his experience of playing Emmett, saying that although Emmett grew up deaf like himself, he has always been able to hear a little bit – he can hear sounds with a hearing aid, and enjoys listening to music. He considers himself bilingual because he does have the ability to speak and understand English.
He added that he appreciates that people have taken the initiative to learn American Sign Language after watching the show. Sean explained that when he goes out to a bakery or a restaurant, or anywhere public, people thank him and sign something, to which he responds, ‘Where did you learn that?’ and they reply, ‘From the show,’ proving that “Switched at Birth” has had an incredible impact.
In “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” the Twentieth Century-Fox animated film released in 2012, Sean signed the movie in American Sign Language for the DVD version. He can be seen during the movie, displayed in a picture-in-picture window. In 2018, he appeared as Frank Bowe in the episode “Civil Rights” of the series “Drunk History.”
He co-stars as Sam Eliot in Netflix’s “The Society” as of 2019, one of the main characters who is deaf and gay.
Sam’s best friends, Gordie (played by Jose Julian) and Becca Gelb (Gideon Adlon) both taught themselves American Sign Language to communicate easier with him. Jack Mulhern plays Grizz, Sam’s boyfriend, who is also learning to communicate with Sam after he accidentally begins learning British Sign Language. Sean once again spoke with Time magazine when he joined the cast of “The Society”, and talked about how the show tackled sign language. He told the magazine that none of the actors knew how to sign, so then there was an American Sign Language coach on set who would help the actors learn their lines in sign language – the cast would have lessons over the weekends, and during their free time on days of filming. Sean expressed his admiration for Gideon Adlon, who plays Becca, saying that her determination to learn sign language perfectly impressed him enormously.
Gideon had a week-and-a-half to two weeks to learn her lines, and be able to sign them fluently, but nailed them every episode. In his interview, he also spoke about the films “A Quiet Place” and “The Shape of Water,” which are two major Hollywood films featuring sign language and deaf characters ‘…in different ways.’
When interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, he spoke on why deaf representation is so important. Sean explained that proper representation shows that deaf people don’t just, ‘… move their hands…’ but there is a whole culture, community and language. That relationships between deaf people and hearing people contain multiple challenges, but are joyful and happy, exactly like ‘normal’ relationships. He has appeared in several music videos to provide sign language interpretations, and has given numerous motivational keynote speeches all over the country.
One of the most famous American Sign Language versions of his is of Enrique Iglesias’s well-known song, “Hero” – Sean’s version has received over a million views on YouTube. In 2012, he performed “Hero” live in sign language at Disneyland’s inaugural SIGNin’ in the Street; the event celebrated creativity within the deaf community. In May 2019 he announced that he was in the process of writing a romantic movie in American Sign Language. He has been featured in several public service commercials throughout his career. He plans to develop his comedy “The Sean Berdy Show,” which will contain skits, stand-up comedy, personal life stories and other topics. He also wants to make more sign music videos.
He has said that he the opposite of his “Switched at Birth” character, Emmett, who is secluded and icy; Sean describes himself as outgoing and playful.
From the age of 11, he has suffered from bipolar disorder. He opened up about his struggles in June 2018, when he shared an Instagram post and said, ‘I have been hiding for so long, and I’m done with it because I know when I share – I will receive more support.’ He practices yoga and meditation, and goes for walks and hikes to help him cope with his disorder. He was dating Mary Harman, but the pair have since broken-up, following which she became engaged and married Colin Whited, but Sean is seemingly still single.
Hobbies, favorite things and interesting facts
In his interview with theTVaddict.com, Sean stated that his favourite actor is Jim Carrey, who has inspired him from a very young age; his dream would be to star opposite Jim in a major comedy movie. He gushed, ‘He [Jim] is one of the big inspirations in my young life, and he still is.’ His fluidity and speed when signing has earned him the nickname ‘signing ninja.’
When he was two years old, his aunt jokingly said that he would become an actor like Marlee Matlin, who ironically played his mother 15 years later in “Switched at Birth.” He is regularly recognized and applauded for his work in revolutionizing people’s interest in the deaf community, and learning sign language.
He has reddish-brown hair and blue eyes. He is 5ft 10in (1.78m) tall and weighs about 150lbs (68kgs).
Net worth and salary
As from early 2020, his net worth is estimated at over $2 million.