Marlee Matlin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Marlee Matlin
Matlin receiving a Motion Pictures Star
at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2009
BornMarlee Beth Matlin
(1965-08-24) August 24, 1965 (age 49)
Morton Grove, Illinois, U.S.
OccupationActress, producer
Years active1986–present
Spouse(s)Kevin Grandalski (m. 1993)
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the actress. For the political professional, see Mary Matalin.
Marlee Matlin
Matlin receiving a Motion Pictures Star
at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2009
BornMarlee Beth Matlin
(1965-08-24) August 24, 1965 (age 49)
Morton Grove, Illinois, U.S.
OccupationActress, producer
Years active1986–present
Spouse(s)Kevin Grandalski (m. 1993)

Marlee Beth Matlin (born August 24, 1965) is an American actress. She is the only deaf performer to win the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, which she won for Children of a Lesser God.[1] At the age of 21, she became the youngest woman in history to win that award. Her work in film and television has resulted in a Golden Globe award, with two additional nominations, and four Emmy nominations. Deaf since she was 18 months old,[2] she is also a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf. Her longtime interpreter is Jack Jason.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Matlin was born in Morton Grove, Illinois, to Libby (née Hammer) and Donald Matlin (1930-2013), an automobile dealer.[5][6][7] She has two older brothers, Eric and Marc. She lost all hearing in her right ear and 80% of the hearing in her left ear at the age of 18 months. In her autobiography I'll Scream Later, she suggests that her hearing loss may have been due to a genetically malformed cochlea.[8] She also indicated that she is the only member of her family who is deaf. Her family was of Russian Jewish descent.[6][9] Matlin had a Bat Mitzvah, and managed to read her Torah portion by learning Hebrew phonetically; she was later interviewed for the book Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories.[10] Matlin graduated from John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights and attended Harper College.[11]

In her autobiography I'll Scream Later, she described two instances when she was molested by her babysitter at the age of 11 and by her teacher in high school.[12]


Matlin made her stage debut at the age of seven, as Dorothy in a children's theatre (ICODA) version of The Wizard of Oz,[13] and continued to appear with the ICODA children's theatre group throughout her childhood.[14] Her discovery by Henry Winkler during one of her ICODA theater performances ultimately led to her film debut in Children of a Lesser God (1986).[citation needed] That film brought her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Two years later, she made a guest appearance on Sesame Street with Billy Joel performing a revised version of Just the Way You Are with lyrics by Tony Geiss. Matlin used sign language during the song and hugged Oscar the Grouch during the song's conclusion.

In 1989, she played a deaf widow in Bridge to Silence. Matlin was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her work as the lead female role in the television series Reasonable Doubts (1991–1993) and was nominated for an Emmy Award for a guest appearance in Picket Fences. She became a regular on the series during its final season. She portrayed Carrie Buck in the television drama Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story (1994) based on the United States Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200 (1927). In the movie, Matlin played a hearing woman for the first time and earned a CableACE Nomination as Best Actress.

Matlin later had recurring roles in The West Wing, and Blue's Clues. Other television appearances include Seinfeld ("The Lip Reader"), The Outer Limits ("The Message"), ER, The Practice and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She was nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards for her guest appearances in Seinfeld, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The Practice.

Matlin at the 2007 Texas Book Festival promoting one of her works

In 2002, Matlin published her first novel, Deaf Child Crossing, which was loosely based on her own childhood. She later wrote and published a sequel titled Nobody's Perfect, which was produced on stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in partnership with VSA Arts in October 2007. In 2004, she starred in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know!? as Amanda. She also hosted the 3rd annual Festival for Cinema of the Deaf in Chicago, October 15–18, 2004.

In 2006, she played a deaf parent in Desperate Housewives. She also had a recurring role as Joy Turner's (who made many jokes of Marlee's deafness at her expense) public defender in My Name Is Earl and played the mother of one of the victims in an episode of CSI: NY. That same year, Matlin was cast in season 4 of The L Word as Jodi Lerner, a gay sculptor. She appeared in season 4 (2007), season 5 (2008) and season 6 (2009) as the girlfriend of one of the show's protagonists, Bette Porter (played by Jennifer Beals).

On February 4, 2007, Matlin performed the "Star Spangled Banner" in American Sign Language at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida. In January 2008, she appeared on Nip/Tuck as a television executive.

On February 18, 2008, it was announced that Matlin would participate as a competitor in the sixth season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars. Her dance partner was newcomer Fabian Sanchez. Matlin and Sanchez were the sixth couple eliminated from the competition.[15]

On May 6, 2009, Matlin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[16]

On November 8, 2009, Matlin appeared on Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show, hosted by Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein. After Borstein imitated Matlin calling MovieFone and singing "Poker Face", Matlin herself appeared and launched into a comical tirade against Borstein over being made fun of, and how she was not invited to provide her own voice for Family Guy. Matlin went on to voice a fictional deaf character in the Season 10 episode "The Blind Side" which has since turned into a recurring role.

In 2010, Matlin produced a pilot for a reality show entitled My Deaf Family, which she presented to various national network executives. Although they expressed interest, no network purchased rights to the show for ongoing production. On March 29, 2010, Matlin uploaded the pilot to YouTube and launched a viral marketing campaign.[17]

On July 26, 2010, Matlin signed a speech at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.[18]

She was a finalist on the NBC show The Celebrity Apprentice, competing to win money for her charity, The Starkey Hearing Foundation,[19] finishing in second place. However, on one episode of The Celebrity Apprentice ("The Art of the Deal" aired on April 3, 2011), Matlin raised more funds than had ever been raised for charity in a single event on any television show before ($986,000).[20] Donald Trump then donated an additional $14,000 to make the contribution an even million.[20] Marlee also acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for disability rights.[21]

She currently plays the recurring character Melody Bledsoe on the ABC Family television teen/family drama series Switched at Birth.

Personal life[edit]

Matlin is actively involved with a number of charitable organizations, including Easter Seals (where she was appointed an Honorary Board Member), the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, VSA arts, and the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet.[22] She was appointed by President Clinton in 1994 to the Corporation for National Service and served as chair of National Volunteer Week.[citation needed] Matlin was a participant in the first-ever national television advertising campaign supporting donations to Jewish federations. The program featured "film and television personalities celebrating their Jewish heritage and promoting charitable giving to the Jewish community" and included Greg Grunberg, Joshua Malina, Kevin Weisman, and Jonathan Silverman.[23]

Matlin as one of presenters at the 2014 AHA Hero Dog Awards

Matlin received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Gallaudet University in 1987.[24][25][26] In October 2007, she was appointed to the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees.[26] In 1988, Matlin received the Samuel S. Beard Award for Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[27]

Matlin attended the 1987 Oscars to present the Academy Award for Best Actor.[28] After signing her introduction in ASL, she spoke aloud the "names of the nominees" and of Michael Douglas, the winner.[28]

On April 14, 2009, Matlin released an autobiography, I'll Scream Later. In it she describes her drug abuse and how it drove her to check herself into Betty Ford. She also tells about her rocky, two-year relationship with actor William Hurt, who she claims was physically abusive to her and abused drugs during that time.[29] She also addresses the sexual abuse she says she suffered as a child at the hands of her female babysitter.[30]

Matlin enjoys a sense of humor about her deafness: "Often I’m talking to people through my speaker phone, and after 10 minutes or so they say, 'Wait a minute, Marlee, how can you hear me?' They forget I have an interpreter there who is signing to me as they talk. So I say, 'You know what? I can hear on Wednesdays.'"[31]


Matlin married Burbank police officer Kevin Grandalski on August 29, 1993, at the home of actor Henry Winkler, five days after her 28th birthday.[32] They first met while she was filming a scene from Reasonable Doubts outside the studio grounds; the police department had assigned Grandalski to provide security and control traffic.[33] They have four children: Sarah (born 1996), Brandon (born 2000), Tyler (born 2002), and Isabelle (born 2003).[34]



Published works[edit]


  1. ^ "Shoshannah Stern — Ready for Prime Time", Ability Magazine.
  2. ^ Matlin, Marlee, I'll Scream Later, New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009, p. 3.
  3. ^ "Marlee Matlin: ‘Do What You Have To Do’", NPR, August 11, 2010.
  4. ^ Rick Rojas, "Jack Jason gives voice to, but doesn't talk over, Marlee Matlin", Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2011.
  5. ^ Marlee Matlin. Film
  6. ^ a b "Marlee Beth Matlin roots". Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Inside Actress Marlee Matlin's Silent World". Good Morning America. ABC. April 14, 2009. p. 4. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ Matlin, I'll Scream Later (2009), pp. 21–22.
  9. ^ Schleier, Curt, "No challenge goes unmet for deaf actress Marlee Matlin", Jewish News Weekly, January 19, 2007.
  10. ^ "Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories". Review at Amazon.
  11. ^ Heidemann, Jason A. "Vital signs". Time Out Chicago, October 4, 2007.
  12. ^ Matlin, Marlee (2010). I'll Scream Later (First ed.). London. pp. 56–61. ISBN 978-1439171516. 
  13. ^ 4HL (August 18, 2006). ""A gateway to arts for the deaf", August 18, 2006". Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  14. ^ Stark, John (October 20, 1986). "Deaf Actress Marlee Matlin Broke the Sound Barrier with New Love and Lesser God Co-Star Bill Hurt". People. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Marlee Matlin Signs Off from Dancing". People. April 23, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Marlee Matlin receives Walk of Fame star", The Los Angeles Independent, May 6, 2009.
  17. ^ "Marlee Matlin Launches ''My Deaf Family'' on YouTube". March 31, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  18. ^ 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act | The White House
  19. ^ Video at
  20. ^ a b "SignTalk Joins Fundraiser for Marlee Matlin's Cause..." Published: 2011-05-12, Disabled
  21. ^ "ACLU Ambassadors - Marlee Matlin". aclu.olrg (American Civil Liberties Union). Retrieved 2015-01-05. 
  22. ^ Marlee Matlin, The Gift of Silence: A Conversation with Marlee Matlin. Voices April 4, 2007.
  23. ^ "Film and Television Celebrities Promote Jewish Federations in First-Ever National Television Advertising Campaign - Jewish Stars Promote Federations' Initiatives and Mission", Jewish Federations of North America, August 2, 2004.
  24. ^ "''Transcript of honorary degree ceremony at Gallaudet''" (PDF). Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  25. ^ "''Photo in 1987 Gallaudet Tower Clock yearbook''" (PDF). Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  26. ^ a b Profile: Marlee Matlin. Gallaudet University. Access date: December 26, 2007.
  27. ^
  28. ^ a b Marlee Matlin, Betsy Sharkey (2009). I'll Scream Later. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1-4391-7151-3. 
  29. ^ William Hurt (April 14, 2009). "William Hurt to Marlee Matlin: "I Apologize for Any Pain I Caused"". Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  30. ^ "Marlee Matlin: Baby sitter's abuse led to life of drugs, violence". CNN. April 14, 2009.
  31. ^ "Ability Magazine: Marlee Matlin Story". Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  32. ^ "Weddings of the Year". People 42 (4). July 25, 1994. 
  33. ^ Lipton, Michael A. (March 15, 1993). "Law and Ardor". People. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  34. ^ Rizzo, Monica (March 28, 2008). "At Home with Marlee Matlin". People. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 

External links[edit]