Children of a Lesser God
“The handicap of deafness is not in the ear; it is in the mind.” Marlee Matlin
The youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar, Marlee Matlin, who lost her hearing when she was a baby, received rave reviews at age 21 for her brilliant portrayal of Sarah Norman in the film adaptation of Mark Medoff's Tony award-winning play, “Children of a Lesser God” (1986). She has since starred in such films as “Walker” (1987), “Bridge to Silence” (1989), “The Player” (1992), “The Linguini Incident” (1992), “Hear No Evil” (1993), “It's My Party” (1996), “Two Shades of Blue” (2000), “What the #$*! Do We (K)now” (2004) and the upcoming “Silent Knights” (2007).
On the small screen, Matlin was remembered as feisty campaign manager Joey Lucas (2000-2006) on NBC's political drama series "The West Wing" and as Assistant District Attorney Tess Kaufman on NBC's cop drama series "Reasonable Doubts" (1991-1993). She is currently playing sculptor Jodi Lerner on Showtime's drama "The L Word."
More personally, the 5' 4" delicately pretty, spirited brunette was romantically linked to Richard Dean Anderson (actor; born on January 23, 1950; dated in 1988), executive producer David E Kelley, and her “Children of a Lesser God” (1986) co-star, William Hurt (actor; born on March 20, 1950; lived together for two years in the 80's). She now has four children with her police officer husband.
“I have always resisted putting limitations on myself, both professionally and personally.
I live my life like everyone else; everyone has their own obstacles. Mine is deafness.” Marlee Matlin
Childhood and Family:
“When I learned to sign and speak at the same time, the whole world opened up to me. That's the beauty of encouraging kids who are deaf to use whatever it takes to communicate.” Marlee Matlin
In Morton Grove, Illinois, Marlee Beth Matlin was born on August 24, 1965, to Donald and Libby Matlin. At the age of 18 months, Marlee became deaf due to a bout with Roseola Infantum. The third child of the family, Marlee has two older brothers, Eric and Marc. Her paternal grandparents are Edward Matlin and Anne Weinstein.
Young Marlee attended John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois. She then studied Criminal Justice at Harper College, in Palatine, Illinois.
On August 23, 1993, Marlee married Kevin Grandalski, a police officer, in Henry Winkler's (the Fonz's) back yard. They have four children: two sons, Tyler Daniel Grandalski (born on July 18, 2002) and Brandon Joseph (born on September 12, 2000) and two daughters, Isabelle Jane Grandalski (born on December 26, 2003) and Sarah Rose (born in 1996).
Marlee, who is totally deaf in her right ear and lost 80% of her hearing in her left ear, decided to send her perfect-hearing daughter to a school for children with impaired hearing, insisting that her daughter will have a better understanding that the world is full of all sorts of people, each one deserving of respect and love, by knowing both deaf and hearing people.
Marlee was appointed in 1994 by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to the Board of Directors for the Corporation for National Service and has actively been involved with various charitable organizations, including the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and the Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet.
The West Wing
Although she has lost her hearing as a baby, Marlee Matlin continued to pursue her deepest interest, acting. She started acting with the Children's Theater of the Deaf, in Des Plains, IL, at age 7 and has performed in such plays as "The Wizard of Oz" (she played Dorothy), "Peter Pan" and "Mary Poppins" throughout Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska. After graduating from college, she maintained her passion for acting and performed on stage throughout Chicago and the Midwest.
While playing a supporting role in a Chicago stage production of Mark Medoff's Tony award-winning play "Children of a Lesser God," Matlin was cast in its film version with the same title in 1986. In the film, she played the female lead role of Sarah Norman, a hearing- and speech-impaired student who becomes involved with a dedicated teacher (played by William Hurt). Although it was her film debut, Matlin garnered critical acclaim and won the coveted Academy Award for Best Actress at age 21, becoming the youngest recipient of the award in the category. In addition to the Oscar, she received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama.
Following her stunning debut, Matlin was offered feature roles in Alex Cox's independent historical drama about the American adventurer who invaded Mexico in the 1850s, “Walker” (1987; starring Ed Harris), Richard Shephard's crime/comedy film “The Linguini Incident” (1991; starring David Bowie and Rosanna Arquette) and Robert Greenwood's thriller “Hear No Evil” (1993), in which she starred as a deaf woman who becomes the target of a ruthless and corrupt officer. She also appeared as herself in Robert Altman's movie about Hollywood studio executive Griffin Mill (played by Tim Robbins), “The Player” (1992; based on Michael Tolkin's novel), and delivered a sensitive portrayal as the sister of an AIDS patient (played by Eric Roberts) in writer-director Randal Kleiser's moving drama “It's My Party” (1996).
Meanwhile, on the small screen, Matlin made her TV movie debut and first speaking role on CBS' Emmy-nominated television movie “Bridge to Silence” (1989). She then starred opposite Mark Harmon in NBC's cop drama series "Reasonable Doubts" (1991-1993), which was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series - Drama twice at the Golden Globes.
During that time, Marlee also portrayed April Hare in episodes of the Disney Channel's "Adventures in Wonderland" and received an Emmy nomination for playing Jerry's girlfriend Laura in two episodes of NBC's hit sitcom "Seinfeld." Additionally, she performed the national anthem in American Sign Language with country music star Garth Brooks at Super Bowl XXVII, as well as appeared in Brooks' music video "We Shall Be Free." She also starred in a TV commercial for Apple Computer.
Matlin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1993. Afterward, she played the Emmy-nominated role of Laurie Bay (1993-1996) on CBS' drama/comedy series "Picket Fences," in which she made her first collaboration with David E Kelley, and gained praise for her performance as the title character in Lifetime's based-on-fact movie, “Against Her Will: The Story of Carrie Buck” (1994). She hosted PBS' show about technology that improves the lives of people with disabilities, “People in Motion," starred in the Daniel Petrie Jr. directed HBO movie "Dead Silence" and appeared in TV commercials for AT&T TTY Relay Services, a Public Education Campaign to raise awareness about telecommunication services for the hearing impaired for which she also became the spokesperson. Additionally, Matlin made her producing debut with the Lifetime TV-movie “90 Days at Hollyridge” (1999). The courtroom drama was directed by Nelson McCormick and Matlin also took the lead role of a deaf political campaign manager who is accused of murder.
From 2000 to 2006, Matlin joined the cast of NBC's political drama series "The West Wing," playing feisty campaign manager Joey Lucas. She recalled, “On 'West Wing' it's a conscious choice. Aaron Sorkin (the show creator) never intended it to be a part of the show, my deafness that is. It was just part of who I was. Just like John Amos who was on the show happened to be black, etc. Aaron was intelligent enough to know that it was ability that mattered, not disability, which is a word I'm not crazy about using.”
During her "West Wing" stint, Matlin was reunited with Eric Roberts in James D. Deck's thriller starring Rachel Hunter, “Two Shades of Blue” (2000), in which she played a deaf District Attorney. She received praise for performance as a deaf woman on trial in the spring season finale (May 2000) of the ABC legal drama created by David E Kelley, "The Practice." She also received an Emmy nomination for her two-episode guest performances as Doctor Amy Solway (2004-2005) on NBC's cop drama "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
2004 also saw Matlin became the lead character of Amanda in a controversial film based upon the Ramtha's School of Enlightenment of JZ Knight/Ramtha, “What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?” She explained, "'What the ‘Bleep Do We Know' was not written with a deaf person in mind, but when they met me and we discussed the role, it clicked with them to have me in it. But that happens with a lot of actors in Hollywood, not just with me."
When her contract with "West Wing" ended in 2006, Matlin landed a recurring role on NBC’s Emmy Award-winning sitcom starring Jason Lee, "My Name Is Earl." She also joined the cast of the fourth season of Showtime's drama "The L Word," playing Jodi Lerner, a deaf sculptor who has a relationship with the Dean of the Arts School, played by her real-life best friend Jennifer Beals
As for her upcoming film project, Matlin is currently filming writer-director Doug McKeon's forthcoming football drama, “Silent Knights,” in which she will take the lead role of Charlotte Manning.
Academy Awards: Best Actress in a Leading Role, “Children Of A Lesser God,” 1987
Golden Globes: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama, “Children Of A Lesser God,” 1987