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

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!

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

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  1. goofpuff says:

    That’s amazing that someone making the film Coda was smart enough to realize that instead of trying to bully her and force a hearing actor into the role, they went out and actually listened to what she said and took her advice. That’s just incredible progress.

  2. Zantasia says:

    I love reading anything about her. This makes me miss Switched at Birth (yes, I watch ABC Family/Freeform shows).

  3. Becks1 says:

    Love that she stood her ground AND that they listened to her and hired a deaf actor. I love Marlee, this looks excellent and I’ll watch it.

    Honestly we have been watching more Apple TV plus and everything is just so well done. Ted Lasso obviously is fantastic, we LOVE Mythic Quest, it kind of reminds of the Office but set in a video game company, and we just started For All Mankind and have found that surprisingly more interesting and engaging than we had expected.

    • magda mosi says:

      yes! I also love Mythic Quest, also deeply recommend – Trying, it’s so sweet, think Ted Lasso sweet.

  4. SarahCS says:

    Can we please keep keep the pace up with increasing representation on screen? And more specifically, it not be a core aspect of the story as you point out above CB. Everyone is out their living their lives and doing their thing so can stories on screen please look more like their audiences.

    It feels like hollywood in particular and tv/streaming (although less so) have become so obsessed with their focus groups and finding the script/actor/etc. who will make the most money based on their algorithms that real people have largely been wiped out.

  5. nicegirl says:

    Marlee is wonderful.

    Omg CB! I watched (the entire first season of) Ted Lasso on your recommendation. I am in love. Cannot wait until it returns.

    And this is what keeps me coming back, NGL. It’s bc You KNOW WHAT’s GOOD.

  6. Christine says:

    She has always been the classiest person in entertainment. I can’t remember her ever being anything other than a warrior, yet she always does it in a way that can’t possibly offend anyone, which is a superhuman ability almost no one can pull off, but she can!

  7. Noki says:

    The library lets you take out digital magazines…How does that work?

    • megs283 says:

      Get a library card if you don’t have one for your public library – then there should be a section on their website for digital resources. Call the library if you have questions and the librarian will be happy to help you!

      • Al says:

        Our local library provides access to two digital platforms: Hoopla and OverDrive. They’re both awesome and have books, audiobooks, magazines, comic books, music, tv shows, and movies. The content available is dependent on the library and the two platforms have different collections. We have listened to so many audiobooks this past year! I definitely recommend checking out your local libraries.

      • Amy T says:

        I’m a librarian and Hoopla and Overdrive are both wonderful. Also, there are other great databases that your library probably has too, especially if you’re a parent with school-age kids. We have Brainfuse, which provides live tutoring and all kinds of skill-building exercises and lessons for kindergarten through adult, and a writing center where you can get help with everything from school papers to resumes.

  8. BothSidesNow says:

    I have loved Marlee since her first breakout role with that asshole, Children Of A Lesser God. She was phenomenal!! I saw it when it came out, yes, I am a boomer. I saw it with my mother and we both loved it!! She has always struck me as an extremely deep and talented actor and she proves it in every role she takes. I am just sad for what the asshole did to her, but she survived and it looks like she is thriving!!
    I love that Hollywood listened to her. She is right though, that Hollywood doesn’t represent enough people with disabilities.

  9. MsIam says:

    Love Marlee, always enjoy her performances. Wow, her daughter is her twin, lol.

    • molly says:

      I was going to say the same thing, but then I her husband. H basically looks like her too. If you told me they were siblings I’d believe you. Maybe it’s a case of couple looking like each other. Nearly 30 years is a long time together, and I wish her and her family nothing but the very, very best.

  10. Kim says:

    WAY back when, she showed the world a deaf person could be a sexy, smart person on screen with her portrayal of Joey Lucas. I was all team Josh and Joey.

    However, this shouldn’t be a one off, if we need a deaf character call Marlee Matlin. It’s far past time that Hollywood puts their money where their mouth is and open their doors to everyone.

  11. molly says:

    I get Marlee Matlin and Marla Maples confused up in my head. “Wait, do I love or hate this woman??” is always my first thought when I hear one of their names.