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More MS news articles for October 2002

New Pax Drama Starring Deaf Actress Inspired By FBI Lip Reader

October 10, 2002, Thursday
Walt Belcher
The Tampa Tribune

Coming up Sunday on the wholesome Pax TV network is a new series, "Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye," inspired by a hearing-impaired lip reader who once worked for the FBI.

Debuting at 9 p.m., it's an entertaining drama from the producers of "Doc," which stars Billy Ray Cyrus as a country healer in the big city.

Deaf actress Deanne Bray stars as Sue Thomas, deaf from childhood, who worked at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., from 1979 to 1982. Thomas also had one of the country's first hearing-ear dogs. Although the series is inspired by her life, the cases presented are fictional.

Producers (and brothers) Gary and Dave Alan Johnson say the series was developed from a screenplay about Thomas they wrote years ago.

The film was never made, but after the success of "Doc," they were looking for another series to develop for Pax.

"This seemed like the perfect fit for the network because she has such an inspirational story," Gary Johnson said in a recent interview.

Thomas, 52, left the FBI long ago. Now a Christian motivational speaker, she lives in a farming community in Ohio.

"This is an amazing woman who has overcome so much in her life," Gary Johnson said. "Now she is battling multiple sclerosis and may lose her eyesight, but her spirits are always high."

In the first episode, Thomas and her dog, a golden retriever named Levi, move to Washington. She joins the FBI, and the agency assigns the rookie to mundane duties such as analyzing fingerprints.

She longs for a bigger challenge, and her chance comes when agents discover that her amazingly accurate lip-reading ability is useful in surveillance work.

In real life, Thomas was never an FBI agent. She has said that her case work was not documented and she had no official title. She was a clerical worker and tour guide at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington. She says she was drafted into "special service."

This role is a big break for Bray, who has appeared in stage, film and television roles. Bray was discovered by a talent agent while she was performing with a dancing group at a deaf festival at California State University, Northridge, where she earned a degree in biology.

WB SCORES: The WB's Monday night family series "Everwood" has become the first new fall drama to be picked up for a full season of 22 episodes.

Ratings are good for the 9 p.m. tale of a widowed big-city doctor (Treat Williams) who moves his children to a small Colorado town.

The show has retained nearly all of the audience from its lead-in, "7th Heaven," The WB's top-performing series.

"We've finally found the perfect partner for our No. 1 series, "7th Heaven,' " said Jordan Levin, president of entertainment at The WB. " "Everwood' has been a creative, critical and ratings success for us from the start."

Last week, two ABC comedies "8 Simple Rules" and "Life With Bonnie," became the first fall series to receive back-end pickup orders.

Even though the ratings have steadily improved for Bonnie Hunt's new show, she has fired most of her writing staff. According to Variety, she and co-producer Donald Lake will take over writing the show.

© Copyright 2002 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune