Marlee Matlin was asked to act with a famous actor playing a deaf character, she said no

A post shared by Marlee Matlin (@themarleematlin)

Marlee Matlin is profiled in Hello! Magazine, in the print edition which is dated May 31st. (I just discovered that my local library lets you take out digital magazines so that’s how I saw this!) There’s a photo spread of Marlee’s home in Santa Barbara, which is gorgeous, contemporary and well-appointed. She lives there with her husband of 28 years, former police officer Kevin Grandalsky, and they have four children: Sarah 25, Brandon, 20, Tyler, 18, and Isabelle, 17. Marlee did the photoshoot with Sarah, who works for “a top fashion portal,” according to Hello! I was thinking maybe Marlee wants to sell her home, but she probably wants to help out Sarah’s career too. I’m ok with that. Sarah is 25 years old and is already working, she’s not a teenager. It doesn’t have that weird nepotism feel that you get with the 14-17 year-old children in magazines with their famous parents.

Marlee’s interview focuses on how she got her start in acting, her kids and her next project, Coda, a movie coming out on Apple+. Marlee stars alongside a mostly deaf cast, but that wasn’t the original plan for the film. They wanted to hire a famous actor to play her deaf husband, she doesn’t specify whom. She turned down the role and told them to hire deaf people for it and they did! Here’s more, from Hello’s print edition.

Her approach to her career
If something doesn’t work out, that’s no big deal – at least it serves as experience. That’s my philosophy with everything in life. You have to keep going and not dwell on it. It didn’t work out? Fine, let’s move on to something else. Now I’m not especially ambitious, but nor am I a member of the club of the one percent of actresses who get offered all the work. That never mattered to me. What I want is to work on what I like.

Her advice to her kids
I always tell the kids: Your studies come first; second come sports and third – whatever. I’ll look the other way.

On disabled people being invisible in the media
In the United States, 20 percent of the population has some form of disability, but are they present on television? In the cinema? Absolutely not! They are practically invisible.

On her latest project
My latest film, Coda, tells the story of a deaf family whose daughter, who is not deaf, wants to be a singer. They offered me the role of the mother, but they wanted a famous actor to play the dad. I said: ‘No. I’m sorry. Bye.’

They came back and in the end, the father, the son and myself are all deaf actors playing deaf characters.

The film won more awards than any other film ever at… Sundance and has just been bought by Apple TV for $25 million.

What does that mean? That there are fabulous deaf actors and fabulous stories in which the characters are deaf. You just have to give them a chance.

[From Hello! Magazine, print edition, May 31, 2021]

A couple of years ago I watched a really informative episode of Larry King’s show in which RJ Mitte (Breaking Bad) and CJ Jones (Baby Driver), talked about ableism in Hollywood. They said something similar to Marlee, that disabled people are in all walks of life but are hardly represented on screen. It’s rare to see a character with a disability that’s not central to the story, for instance a lawyer in a wheelchair where their disability is not mentioned, or a deaf or blind person.

I appreciate how Marlee turned down that role until more deaf actors were hired. It’s rare to see movies in which deaf characters are central and A Quiet Place and The Sound of Metal are the only recent ones I can remember. (Sound of Metal was criticized for using a hearing actor, Riz Ahmed, to play the lead, however many people in the deaf community appreciated that deaf actors were used in supporting roles, and found the film accurate. A Quiet Place’s Millicent Simmonds, 18, is deaf.) Coda comes out on Apple TV on August 13, 2021. So many people have subscribed to see Harry and Oprah’s incredible series, so I hope they’ll see this too. Oh and Ted Lasso is coming back July 21st!

A post shared by Marlee Matlin (@themarleematlin)

A post shared by Marlee Matlin (@themarleematlin)

A post shared by Marlee Matlin (@themarleematlin)

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