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Who is Marlee Matlin?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Marlee Matlin is an Academy and Golden Globe Aware winning actress who is unique and distinctive in many ways. An obvious thing would be to point out that she is deaf, and this is true. She lost the majority of her hearing just shy of her second birthday in 1967. However, there’s so much more to Matlin, even though she has been a tireless advocate for the hearing impaired, it only makes up part of her story.

Matlin very early on cherished a love of acting, and hearing impairment did not stop her from taking on the role of Dorothy in a play production of The Wizard of Oz when she was seven years old. Though she continued acting as a child, in a theater group in her home state of Illinois, her interests in criminal justice had her studying the subject briefly at Harper College after graduation. Her acting fever had never died down though, which proved to be a fortuitous thing for Marlee Matlin. While acting in the much celebrated play Children of a Lesser God, she was selected to repeat the role in a film version, which was released in 1986.

Matlin’s performance met with rave reviews, and she quickly broke boundaries in the film world, becoming one of the few actors who have won Academy Awards for a debut performance. Children led to other films, among them Walker, Hear No Evil, and the 2005 What the Bleep Do We Know.

Marlee Matlin has also appeared in numerous television series including: Seinfeld, Picket Fences, Spin City, ER, The Practice, The West Wing, Desperate Housewives, My Name is Earl, and The L Word. She has starred in many made for TV films, and published three books: Deaf Child Crossing, Nobody's Perfect and Leading Ladies.

When Marlee Matlin was filming Walker in 1988, she was on location in Nicaragua. She decided to visit children living there, both deaf and hearing, and activism for children and others in need, soon matched her passion for acting. She’s taken up a number of worthy causes, including lobbying to have all major networks offer closed captioning to viewers, working to stop the spread of AIDs through involvement in several prominent AIDS foundations, and participating in many foundations that serve to protect children.

It is unsurprising that this multi-layered actresses’ love for children has inspired her to have her own. She is the mom of four children: two sons and two daughters, the youngest born in 2003. She married husband, Kevin Grandalski in 1993. One bit of trivia that follows Marlee Matlin is that her wedding took place in Fonzie’s (Henry Winkler’s) backyard.

Matlin’s acting can be either spoken or in sign, and she frequently uses a combination of both. Though her work could only be construed as advocacy for people with hearing impairment, it goes much beyond this. Her roles have been varied, and the fact that she is deaf may be key, or completely unimportant. As an actress her dramatic range is considerable and she continues to delight audiences with her work.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments
By anon7375 — On Jan 25, 2008

she's hot!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a PublicPeople contributor, Tricia...
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