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October 13, 2002

PAX brings FBI agent's true-life story to series

From: Aspinwall Valley Herald, PA
Oct. 13, 2002

By Laura Urbani
Sunday, October 13, 2002

"Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye" is not the typical crime drama. The new series on PAX continues the faith-based network's dedication to spiritual well-being. Sue Thomas may work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but she also is deaf. It is through this physical challenge that Sue and the people around her learn about life, friendship and love.

The series reveals the real-life experiences of Sue Thomas, a woman who lost her hearing at the tender age of 18 months. Despite her hearing loss, Thomas became the youngest free-style skating champion in Ohio, studied classical piano and worked for the FBI using her skills for reading lips. Thomas is now a motivational speaker whose message is about faith, hope and love.

Thomas accomplished so much because of her parents' dedication to ensuring her childhood was as normal as possible. Her mother constantly pushed Thomas to assert herself and accept new challenges. She refused to let her daughter become morose because of her handicap. Thomas learned American Sign Language and how to speak by age 7.

The first half of the two-hour television premiere focuses on Sue's childhood experiences. Viewers learn the personal challenges she faced and how her family and their strong faith in God helped propel her to success.

Sue has an interesting relationship with her mother. She feels rather overwhelmed at times by her mother's constant pushing and lectures on how to prove herself. But she also spends a lot of time quoting her mother and remembering everything her mother has taught her.

"My mom always said to keep moving forwards," says Sue. "God will let you know if you're on the right track."

Her mother provides inspiration even after Sue has left her Ohio homeland to work for the FBI in Washington, D.C. Sue is initially disappointed that the bureau thinks of locking her away in a room where she can identify fingerprints for the special projects unit.

"She doesn't think we can survive without her," says Sue to her dog, Levi. "She wouldn't settle for special projects. Neither will I."

Sue demands a transfer to more important and exciting work. She stumbles into the office of an investigative team led by Jack. She immediately impresses him, especially once he realizes she is deaf and can read lips. He recruits her for the team.

"I think we can use her in surveillance," Jack tells the rest of the team.

Sue quickly proves her worth by translating videotapes that don't have an audio track and by watching key figures in the Russian mob.

This is not a legal drama. The focus remains on Sue's personal odyssey as she navigates the challenging roads of a hearing world. The investigation is used as a tool to show how Sue's deafness impacts her life and others.

In addition to Jack, Sue becomes friendly with an FBI office worker, Lucy. The women enjoy each other's company, but Lucy admits that their relationship is different from anything she has experienced before.

"It is a little awkward being with someone who's a little different from myself," says Lucy. "I hate that."

"All my life I felt like an outsider," says Sue. "We're all the same, but different."

"You actually changed the way I look at the world," says Lucy.

Not only does Sue change the way others see the world, but also they continually help Sue explore her new surroundings.

Actress Deanne Bray, who is also deaf, portrays Sue. The California native shares many of the same experiences with Thomas. Bray was also supported and encouraged by her family to learn to speak and participate in the hearing world. Bray learned her lessons well. She speaks just as clearly as the other actors despite being totally deaf.

"Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye" is an endearing show that proves people can connect no matter what their differences.

"Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye" airs at 9 p.m. Tonight, PAX

© 2002 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.