Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Marlee Beth Matlin (born August 24, 1965) is an American actress, author, and activist. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Children of a Lesser God (1986) and to date is the only deaf performer to have won the award.[1][2] 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, due to illness and high fevers,[3] she is also a prominent member of the National Association of the Deaf. Her longtime interpreter is Jack Jason.[4][5]

Marlee Matlin
Matlin receiving a Motion Pictures Star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009
Born Marlee Beth Matlin
(1965-08-24) August 24, 1965 (age 52)
Morton Grove, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Actress, author, activist
Years active 1986–present
Known for Children of a Lesser God, Switched at Birth, The West Wing, The L Word
Spouse(s) Kevin Grandalski (m. 1993)
Children 4


Early lifeEdit

Matlin was born in Morton Grove, Illinois, to Libby (née Hammer) and Donald Matlin (1930–2013), an automobile dealer.[6][7][8]

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.[9] She is the only member of her family who is Deaf. She and her two older brothers, Eric and Marc, grew up in a Reform Jewish household. Her family roots are in Poland and Russia.[7][10][11] Matlin attended a synagogue for the Deaf (Congregation Bene Shalom), and after studying Hebrew phonetically, was able to learn her Torah portion for her Bat Mitzvah. She was later interviewed for the book Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories.[12]

Matlin graduated from John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights and attended Harper College.[13]

In her autobiography I'll Scream Later, she described two instances when she was molested: by her babysitter at age 11, and by her teacher in high school.[14]


Matlin made her stage debut at the age of seven, as Dorothy in an International Center on Deafness and the Arts (ICODA) children's theatre of The Wizard of Oz,[15] and continued to appear with the ICODA children's theatre group throughout her childhood.[16]

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).[17] 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.[citation needed] Matlin used sign language during the song and hugged Oscar the Grouch during the song's conclusion. One year after that, Billy Joel invited her to perform in his video for "We Didn't Start the Fire" where she played the prom-queen-turned-hippie in the mid portion of that video.[citation needed]

In 1989, Matlin portrayed a Deaf widow in Bridge to Silence; in that role, she spoke in addition to using sign language. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her work as the lead female role in the television series Reasonable Doubts (1991–1993). Matlin was nominated for an Emmy Award for a guest appearance in Picket Fences (1992), and became a regular on that series during its final season (1996). She played Carrie Buck in the 1994 television drama Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story, based on the United States Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell 274 U.S. 200, which the Court heard in 1927. In that role, Matlin portrayed a hearing woman for the first time in her career, which earned her a CableACE Nomination as Best Actress.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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

In 2002, Matlin published her first novel, titled Deaf Child Crossing, which was loosely based on her own childhood. She later wrote and published a sequel titled Nobody's Perfect, 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, from October 15–18, likewise in 2004.[citation needed]

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 Matlin'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.[citation needed]

On February 4, 2007, and February 7, 2016, Matlin interpreted the "Star Spangled Banner" in American Sign Language at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida and at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, respectively. In January 2008, she appeared on Nip/Tuck as a television executive.[citation needed]

In 2008, Matlin participated 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.[18]

On May 6, 2009, Matlin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[19]

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 Stella, Peter's coworker, in the Season 10 episode "The Blind Side;" Stella later became a recurring character.

In 2010, Matlin produced a pilot for a reality show she titled 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.[20]

On July 26, 2010, Matlin signed a speech at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.[21]

In the following year, Matlin was a finalist on the NBC show The Celebrity Apprentice, competing to win money for her charity, The Starkey Hearing Foundation,[22] finishing in second place. However, on one episode of The Celebrity Apprentice, "The Art of the Deal", which was transmitted on April 3, 2011, she raised more funds than had ever been raised for charity in a single event on any television show before—USD$986,000.[23] Donald Trump, who was then moderating The Celebrity Apprentice, then donated an additional USD$14,000 to make the contribution an even million.[23]

In 2013, Matlin played herself in No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie. As of January 2015, Matlin also acted as the American Civil Liberties Union's celebrity ambassador for disability rights.[24]

Matlin played the recurring character of Melody Bledsoe on Switched at Birth. In September 2015, she made her Broadway debut in the revival production of the musical Spring Awakening.[25]

Beginning in 2017, Matlin played the recurring role of Harriet on the Syfy television series, The Magicians.[26]

On July 31, 2017, it was announced by Deadline that Matlin will join as a series regular in the third season of the ABC thriller Quantico in the role of ex-FBI agent, Jocelyn Turner.[27]

Personal lifeEdit

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.[28] She was appointed by President Clinton in 1994 to the Corporation for National Service and served as chair of National Volunteer Week.[29] 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.[30]

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

Matlin received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree from Gallaudet University in 1987.[31][32][33] In October 2007, she was appointed to the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees.[33] 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.[34][35]

Matlin attended the 1987 Oscars to present the Academy Award for Best Actor.[36] After signing her introduction in ASL, she spoke aloud the "names of the nominees" and of Michael Douglas, the winner.[36]

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 the Betty Ford Center. She also tells about her rocky, two-year relationship with actor William Hurt, who she claims was physically abusive to her.[37] She also addresses the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of her female babysitter.[38]

She 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.'"[39][40]


Matlin married Burbank police officer Kevin Grandalski on August 29, 1993, at the home of actor Henry Winkler, five days after her 28th birthday.[41] 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.[42] They have four children: Sarah (born 1996), Brandon (born 2000), Tyler (born 2002), and Isabelle (born 2003).[43]



In recognition of her philanthropic work and her advocacy for the inclusion of people with disabilities, Matlin received the 2016 Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion, a $100,000 prize given annually by the Jay Ruderman of the Ruderman Family Foundation to one individual whose work excels at promoting disability inclusion. She won the Henry Viscardi Achievement Awards for disability advocacy in 2014.[44]

Published worksEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The 59th Academy Awards Memorable Moments". | Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2017-03-07. 
  2. ^ "Oscars: Marlee Matlin on her Best Actress win". 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2017-03-07. 
  3. ^ Matlin, Marlee, I'll Scream Later, New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009, p. 3.
  4. ^ "Marlee Matlin: ‘Do What You Have To Do’", NPR, August 11, 2010.
  5. ^ Rick Rojas, "Jack Jason gives voice to, but doesn't talk over, Marlee Matlin", Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2011.
  6. ^ Marlee Matlin profile,; accessed February 7, 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Marlee Beth Matlin roots". Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Inside Actress Marlee Matlin's Silent World". Good Morning America. ABC. April 14, 2009. p. 4. Retrieved June 16, 2012. 
  9. ^ Matlin, I'll Scream Later (2009), pp. 21–22.
  10. ^ Schleier, Curt, "No challenge goes unmet for Deaf actress Marlee Matlin", Jewish News Weekly, January 19, 2007.
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ "Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories",; accessed February 7, 2018.
  13. ^ Heidemann, Jason A. "Vital signs" Archived October 13, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.. Time Out Chicago, October 4, 2007.
  14. ^ Matlin, Marlee (2010). I'll Scream Later (First ed.). London, UK. pp. 56–61. ISBN 978-1439171516. 
  15. ^ "A gateway to arts for the deaf". August 18, 2006. Archived from the original on September 2, 2006. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ "Why Marlee Matlin and Henry Winkler are captivating audiences". Greater Talent. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  18. ^ "Marlee Matlin Signs Off from Dancing". People. April 23, 2008. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  19. ^ "Marlee Matlin receives Walk of Fame star" Archived September 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., The Los Angeles Independent, May 6, 2009.
  20. ^ "Marlee Matlin Launches ''My Deaf Family'' on YouTube". March 31, 2010. Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  21. ^ 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, The White House.] Archived July 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Video at
  23. ^ a b "SignTalk Joins Fundraiser for Marlee Matlin's Cause...",, May 12, 2011.
  24. ^ "ACLU Ambassadors - Marlee Matlin". aclu.olrg (American Civil Liberties Union). Retrieved 2015-01-05. 
  25. ^ Gioia, Michael; Viagas, Robert (July 21, 2015). "Children of a Lesser God Oscar Winner Marlee Matlin Will Make Broadway Debut in Spring Awakening". Playbill. Retrieved November 8, 2015. 
  26. ^ Serrao, Nivea (February 9, 2017). "Marlee Matlin to cast her spell on The Magicians". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 12, 2018. 
  27. ^ Petski, Denise (July 31, 2017). "'Quantico': Marlee Matlin Cast In Season 3 Of ABC Series". Deadline. Retrieved August 7, 2017. 
  28. ^ "Marlee Matlin, The Gift of Silence: A Conversation with Marlee Matlin". Voices April 4, 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-06-02. 
  29. ^ "Marlee Matlin Biography". The Kennedy Center. Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  30. ^ "Film and Television Celebrities Promote Jewish Federations in First-Ever National Television Advertising Campaign - Jewish Stars Promote Federations' Initiatives and Mission" Archived November 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine., Jewish Federations of North America, August 2, 2004.
  31. ^ "''Transcript of honorary degree ceremony at Gallaudet''" (PDF). Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  32. ^ "''Photo in 1987 Gallaudet Tower Clock yearbook''" (PDF). Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  33. ^ a b Profile: Marlee Matlin. Gallaudet University. Access date: December 26, 2007.
  34. ^ "Past Winners — Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under". Archived from the original on November 24, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  35. ^ Rubin, James H. (June 21, 1988). "Koop, Marlee Matlin Win Awards for Public Service". Associated Press. Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  36. ^ a b Marlee Matlin, Betsy Sharkey (2009). I'll Scream Later. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 1-4391-7151-3. 
  37. ^ William Hurt (April 14, 2009). "William Hurt to Marlee Matlin: "I Apologize for Any Pain I Caused"". Retrieved October 29, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Marlee Matlin: Baby sitter's abuse led to life of drugs, violence". CNN. April 14, 2009.
  39. ^ Sterman, Paul. "Ability Magazine: Marlee Matlin Story". Retrieved November 9, 2015. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Weddings of the Year". People. 42 (4). July 25, 1994. 
  42. ^ Lipton, Michael A. (March 15, 1993). "Law and Ardor". People. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  43. ^ Rizzo, Monica (March 28, 2008). "At Home with Marlee Matlin". People. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2011. 
  44. ^ "2014 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award Recipients". Viscardi Center. 

External linksEdit