Keivonn Woodard is just 10 years old, but the Bowie resident is already making history as the first Black deaf actor and second-youngest ever to be nominated for an Emmy Award.
Woodard secured a nomination Wednesday for outstanding guest actor in a drama series for his work on HBO’s “The Last of Us,” the postapocalyptic zombie series is based on the popular 2013 PlayStation video game of the same name. He is the youngest-ever nominee in the category.
Woodard plays Sam, a deaf eight-year-old child diagnosed with leukemia who briefly appears in Episode 4 before taking on a larger role in Episode 5. Sam’s video game counterpart isn’t deaf, but the series’ producers made the change to give an opportunity for a deaf actor to fill the role. Woodard’s performance was labeled “astonishing” and “fantastic,” and the episodes he appeared in as heartbreaking and a “standout” on the critically-praised show.
According to Deadline, Woodard was at basketball camp when the Emmy nominations were revealed. He told the outlet he understood the “importance and huge impact” this nomination would have for other actors like him. His mother, April Jackson-Woodard, told Deadline that “The Last of Us” was her son’s first TV show and she “never thought or dreamed” of his historical nomination.
“After Keivonn got the role, I asked myself, ‘How do I even prepare my life?’” she told Deadline. “It wasn’t easy, especially as a Black Deaf mother and also being a widow. I was trying to take care of everything on my own, but he would say, ‘Mom, I got this.’” (The Baltimore Banner’s requests for comment from a representative for Keivonn Woodard and his mother were not returned.)
Woodard’s passions go beyond acting: The Maryland native and member of the Bowie Hockey Club’s Under-10 team has aspirations to become a professional athlete, according to NHL.com. Nicknamed “Hollywood” by his teammates and coaches, Woodard told the site that, while he likes acting, he still wants to become a professional hockey player. By doing so, he could make history yet again as the first deaf Black player in the National Hockey League.
For now, he’ll stick with his current accomplishments. Three of Woodard’s “The Last of Us” cast members — Murray Bartlett, Lamar Johnson and Nick Offerman — are also nominated for guest actor alongside him. James Cromwell and Arian Moayed from HBO’s “Succession” series round out the rest of the category’s nominees.
The ceremony for the 75th annual Emmy Awards will air on Monday, Sept. 18 on Fox.