The Gift of
Silence: A Conversation
with Marlee Matlin
April 4, 2007
Marlee Matlin received worldwide critical acclaim for her motion picture debut in Paramount Pictures' "Children of a Lesser God," a performance the film community chose to recognize in with its highest honor -- the Academy Award for Best Actress. At age 21, she became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar and one of only four actresses to receive that honor for a film debut. In addition to the Oscar, Marlee was honored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association with the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama. That same year she was honored by Harper’s Bazaar Magazine as one of the “The Ten Most Beautiful Women” and Esquire Magazine’s “Women We Love.”
Born and raised in Morton Grove, Illinois, Marlee started acting at the age of seven in the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at a children's theatre company in Chicago. After several years of performing on stage throughout Chicago and the Midwest, Marlee was discovered in a Chicago stage production of Mark Medoff’s Tony Award-winning play, "Children of a Lesser God." Following an extensive international search for the lead role, the producers of the film version selected her to star opposite William Hurt.
Marlee followed her film debut with a second feature, "Walker," starring Ed Harris and directed by Alex Cox ("Sid and Nancy"). While filming in Nicaragua, Marlee took time to visit hearing and hearing impaired children, as she has done extensively throughout her travels to Australia, England, Italy, Germany, Russia, Croatia, Mexico and Canada.
Marlee went on to star in the French feature "The Man in the Golden Mask, " co-starring Jean Reno (“The Professional," "Ronin"). She appeared in two feature films in 1992 -- "The Linguini Incident" with David Bowie and Rosanna Arquette and Robert Altman's "The Player".
Marlee also starred in 20th Century Fox's "Hear No Evil," a suspense thriller co-starring Martin Sheen and in MGM/United Artists’ AIDS drama "It's My Party, " written and directed by Randal Kleiser. In 2005, Marlee made an auspicious return to features with the critically acclaimed documentary/feature, “What the Bleep Do We Know!?”
Marlee starred with Lee Remick in "Bridge to Silence," a CBS movie that marked Marlee’s television debut and her first speaking role. Marlee went on to star for two seasons in the NBC
Television series, "Reasonable Doubts" opposite Mark Harmon and was twice nominated for both a Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in a Dramatic Television Series as well as the People's Choice Awards. Marlee was nominated for two Emmy awards for her guest turns on NBC's "Seinfeld and CBS's "Picket Fences."
Marlee also starred in "Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story," a movie for Lifetime Television in which she was nominated for a CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series. Marlee broke down yet another barrier with the role, playing a character who was not deaf. "I have always resisted putting limitations on myself, both professionally and personally, " said Matlin. "This role gave me the chance to do something I'd never done before. It was a new challenge for me and was a very rewarding experience. "
Marlee returned to CBS’ "Picket Fences" for two seasons to reprise her Emmy-nominated role. Coincidentally, Marlee’s character on Picket Fences gave birth on the same day she gave birth in real life, a feat repeated exactly 43 years to the day by Lucille Ball on “I Love Lucy” on the same network, CBS.
Marlee has been currently starring opposite Martin Sheen, Allison Janney and Bradley Whitford as pollster, Joey Lucas, on NBC's Emmy Award winning series, "The West Wing.” She has also guest-starred on numerous shows including NBC’s "Sweet Justice" with Cicely Tyson, as well as Showtime’s anthology series "The Outer Limits." Marlee starred in HBO’s original feature, “Dead Silence,” opposite James Garner and starred in the Showtime Original feature, “Freak City,” opposite Jonathan Silverman and Natalie Cole. Marlee also guest starred on HBO’s Emmy Award-winning series, “The Larry Sanders Show,” ABC’s comedy “Spin City,” on NBC’s award winning drama “ER,” and CBS’ "Judging Amy.” Marlee received her third Emmy Award nomination for her work on ABC's "The Practice" and starred in the ABC telefilm, "Kiss My Act." In Spring, 2004, Marlee guest starred on and NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and she received her fourth Emmy nomination for her work. In Spring 2005, Marlee guest starred on ABC’s highly rated and award winning comedy/drama “Desperate Housewives” and returned to “Law and Order: SVU” to reprise her Emmy nominated role.
In September, 1999, under her Solo One Productions banner, Marlee embarked on her first effort as Executive Producer and starred in the courtroom thriller “Where the Truth Lies” for Lifetime Television and in 2003, produced the highly rated “Eddie’s Million Dollar Bake-off” for The Disney Channel. She is currently Executive Producing and will star in “Sound and Fury” based on the Oscar nominated documentary.
Marlee published a novel for children entitled "Deaf Child Crossing" in 2002 and Simon and Shuster will publish two more sequels in 2006 and 2007.
Marlee has also appeared in a number of musical performances. She appeared on "Sesame Street" with singer Billy Joel, performing “Just the Way You Are,” and she also appeared in the music video for Joel's Grammy-nominated "We Didn't Start the Fire." In January, 1993, she performed the national anthem in American Sign Language with Garth Brooks, at "Super Bowl XXVII" and appeared in Brooks' music video "We Shall Be Free.”
Marlee has also appeared in a number of educational and children’s programs. In 1996 Marlee served as host of PBS’ Emmy Award winning series “People in Motion.” Other television appearances include MTV’s “Rock the Vote," and Disney’s Award winning series “Adventures in Wonderland.” Most recently, she has appeared in numerous episodes of Nickelodeon's Emmy Award winning "Blues Clues” as Marlee the Librarian. Marlee is currently filming and will appear on the highly acclaimed “Baby Einstein” series of videos, teaching sign language to infants and toddlers in July 2005.
In 1994, Marlee was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to the Board of Directors for the Corporation for National Service. In 1995, Marlee served as Chairperson for National Volunteer Week and honored in a White House Rose Garden ceremony by the President.
Marlee currently serves as a national celebrity spokesperson for The American Red Cross, encouraging Americans to donate blood in light of the September 11th tragedy. She has also worked on behalf of closed captioning and in 1990 was instrumental in getting Congress to pass federal legislation requiring all televisions manufactured in the United States be equipped with closed captioning technology so familiar to us today. She also serves on the boards of a number of charitable organizations including VSA Arts, Easter Seals, The Children Affected By Aids Foundation, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation, Best Buddies, as well as those charities that primarily benefit children. Marlee has also combined her charity work with commercial ventures and has appeared in numerous commercials and Public Service Announcements, on behalf of corporate sponsors such as Target, Sprint and Toys R Us, each designed to raise awareness about the importance of donating to charitable organizations.
Marlee makes her home in the greater Los Angeles area. She and her husband, law enforcement officer Kevin Grandalski welcomed their first child, Sarah, in 1996, their second child, Brandon, in 2000 and their third her third child, Tyler, in July, 2002. Marlee and her husband welcomed their fourth child, Isabelle in December 2003.
WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW (2005)
KISS MY ACT (2001) ABC
WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (1999) (LIFETIME)
FREAK CITY (1998) (SHOWTIME)
DEAD SILENCE (1996) (HBO)
IT’S MY PARTY (1995)
AGAINST HER WILL: THE CARRIE BUCK STORY (1994) (LIFETIME)**
HEAR NO EVIL (1993)
THE PLAYER (1992)
THE LINGUINI INCIDENT (1991)
THE MAN IN THE GOLDEN MASK (1990) (FRENCH FEATURE)
BRIDGE TO SILENCE (1989) (CBS)
CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986)****
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (2005)
EXTREME MAKEOVER: THE HOME EDITION (2004)
LAW AND ORDER: SVU (2004, 2005) NBC*****
I’M WITH HER (2004) ABC
THE WEST WING (2000-2005) NBC
THE DIVISION (2002) LIFETIME
GIDEON'S CROSSING (2001) ABC
THE PRACTICE (2000) ABC*****
BLUES CLUES (2000-2003) NICKELODEON
JUDGING AMY (1999) CBS
ER (1998) NBC
SPIN CITY (1997) ABC
THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW (1997) HBO
PEOPLE IN MOTION (1996) PBS
SWEET JUSTICE (1995) NBC
PICKET FENCES (1993, 1994-1996) CBS*****
ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1993) DISNEY
SEINFELD (1993) NBC*****
REASONABLE DOUBTS (1991-1993) NBC******
EDDIE’S MILLION-DOLLAR COOK-OFF (2003) DISNEY
WHERE THE TRUTH LIES (1999) LIFETIME
DVD: Baby Wordsworth (2005) DISNEY
AUTHOR: DEAF CHILD CROSSING (2002) SIMON & SCHUSTER
**Cable Ace Nomination, Best Actress in a Miniseries (1994)
****Academy Award, Best Actress (1987); Golden Globe Award, Best Actress, Drama (1987)
***** Emmy Nomination
*******Golden Globe Nomination, Best Actress, (1992, 1993); People's Choice Award nomination,
Favorite Actress, Drama (1992, 1993)