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Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin, who pursued a professional acting career despite being legally deaf, is an inspirational role model to many.
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It proved to be a flop with movie-goers and critics alike. Matlin then created a stir among the deaf community with her appearance at the 1987 Academy Awards ceremony, when she chose to speak instead of sign while presenting an award. Some thought she was sending the wrong kind of message with her action, indicating that speech was more important than signing for the deaf.
Matlin took on her first speaking role in the television movie Bridge to Silence. In the film,
she played a deaf mother with a hearing child who becomes involved in a custody dispute with her own mother (played by Lee Remick). Moving on to her own television series, Matlin starred as an assistant district attorney in Reasonable Doubts. Her character, Tess, teamed up with a detective (played by Mark Harmon) who understood sign language. The show premiered in the fall of 1991, and ran for two seasons. While filming the show, Matlin met law enforcement officer Kevin Grandalski. The two began dating off the set. They were married in 1993.
On the big screen, Matlin had a supporting role in 1992's The Linguini Incident, a comedy about a restaurant crime paper. She then scored the lead in the 1993 thriller Hear No Evil, playing a deaf personal trainer being stalked by a corrupt cop (played by Martin Sheen) in pursuit of a missing rare coin. Despite its strong cast, the film received poor reviews and did little at the box office.
In 1993, Matlin demonstrated her comedic abilities with her guest appearance as Jerry Seinfeld's lip-reading romantic interest on the hit sitcom Seinfeld. That same year, Matlin landed a recurring humorous role on the quirky small-town drama Picket Fences. "This role let me put out the funny side of me. There's nothing in it about deafness. It just happens that I am deaf; it's time for me to explore something different," she told People magazine. She received Emmy Award nominations in 1994 for her work on both series.
That same year, Matlin depicted a mentally handicapped woman struggling to keep her child in the television movie Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story. She also continued to make television guest appearances on such shows as Spin City and ER. In 1996, Matlin played a supporting role in the independent drama It's My Party.
Before long, Matlin received another Emmy Award nomination for her appearance on the legal drama The Practice in 2000. Not one to wait for opportunity to knock, Matlin met with Aaron Sorkin, creator of the political drama The West Wing and convinced him to give her a role. She played Joey Lucas, the opinion poll director, on the show. She also found time to make a guest appearance on the crime drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2004, which earned her another Emmy Award nomination.
Around this time, Matlin branched out in a new direction, fulfilling a longtime dream. "When I was 11, I knew that I wanted to write a kid's book and tell the world what it was like being deaf," she explained to Exceptional Parent magazine. Matlin's first young adult book, Deaf Child Crossing was published in 2002. She then teamed up with Doug Cooney for Nobody's Perfect (2006) and Leading Ladies (2007).
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