Though he cannot hear and speaks unclearly, Jeff Bravin, nine, communicates well in other ways--by the language of hand signing, by lipreading and, most recently, by acting. On January 28 Jeff makes his debut in And Your Name Is Jonah, a CBS TV movie about a deaf boy. Initially the moviemakers were worried about casting a deaf child and novice actor in the title role. But when they saw Jeff at work, they were amazed and delighted. He understood intuitively how to use gesture and movement to portray Jonah, a withdrawn child wholly unlike himself. By the end of production, the ebullient Jeff had taught cast and crew to converse with hand signs. They were moved by his special ability to "listen" without the aid of hearing and "talk" without speech. For his part, Jeff says he liked the acting experience, but on the whole he'd rather be a baseball player.
In his first attempt at acting, Jeff Bravin plays the role of a boy who is deaf too.
Between takes, Jeff kids around with seven-year-old Jeremy Licht, who plays his little brother. The boys became best friends during the shooting, communicating with gestures, signs and glances.
Jeff expresses displeasure over an upcoming scene in which he must fight with Sally Struthers, his film mother and new friend off camera. "Let’s get this
over with," he signs, and Struthers indicates she agrees.
Before the fight scene, Bernard Bragg, Jeff's acting coach, holds the boy's head as he urges him to concentrate . Bragg, an actor/director and mime who is himself deaf, used improvisational exercises to help Jeff learn the role of Jonah.