Actress Marlee Matlin, "Leading Lady" for People With Disabilities

Actress Marlee Matlin is best known for playing characters that don't let disabilities get in the way. It's a role she's been playing most of her life. (Closed Captions available)

Date issued: 02 December 2007 | Size/duration: 00:02:45


Actress Marlee Matlin is best known for playing characters that don’t let disabilities get in the way. It’s a role she’s been playing most of her life.

Marlee Matlin, Actress

When I was 11, I remember thinking, I think I might have had a bad day, but I remember thinking to myself when I grow up and I become an adult, I’m going to write a book telling the world that it’s okay to be deaf and that nothing will stop me from being what I want to be. I didn’t think of what kind of stories I would be telling….I just knew that I wanted to be able to communicate with the world.

She’s on her third book now and recently was in NY to promote her latest story about a deaf girl who wants to be an actress like other girls her age. Matlin’s own experience is that disabled people are seen as different; that disabilities are something people prefer not to have to think about.

Marlee Matlin, Actress

The majority of disabled people find it difficult because Hollywood is all about labeling actors, stereotyping actors and usually those stereotypes aren’t positive…. I did a show called “Reasonable Doubts, a television series with Mark Harmon, and the executive at the studio who was in charge of the TV series, came to visit the set and came to talk to the executive producer of the show, watched me at work for a little bit and he said, you know that Marlee Matlin is great, she’s fantastic…. Is she going to be deaf for the whole show?

She often says that the only thing deaf people can’t do is hear. With access to communication and the right tools, people with disabilities have shown themselves to be exemplary workers.

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I once had a roommate who was confined to a wheelchair. He went to work for a publishing house and read more than anyone else there……

Of course, that comes as no surprise to Marlee’s fans.

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I’m horribly jealous. She has too many talents….

Nat sound: “Loved you in West Wing”.

Whether she’s signing autographs or signing to be understood, Marlee Matlin knows the signs are right for people with disabilities to take their place as contributing members of the workforce, just as she has managed to do.