Marlee Matlin was born on 24 August 1965 and raised in the Illinois town of Morton Grove
. While she is probably the most famous deaf
actress working today, she was born hearing and became deaf at the age of 18 months following a bout of roseola
; she learned American Sign Language
at the age of five by taking a class with her mother. Her acting career began at the age of seven, when she starred as Dorothy in a Chicago
children's theatre company's production of The Wizard of Oz
. She attended Harper College
to study criminal justice
, but quit when a teacher discouraged her from continuing her education. Instead she continued performing throughout the Midwest, including a stint as a minor character in a Chicago production of Children of a Lesser God
. It was this performance that got her noticed by the producers of the play's film version, who selected her to play Sarah Norman
in the movie, opposite William Hurt
. Matlin's performance won her the 1987 Best Actress Academy Award
, making the 21-year-old the youngest recipient of the award and one of only four actresses to win it for a film debut. She also won the 1986 Golden Globe
for Best Actress in a Drama.
Since then, Matlin has appeared in a number of movies and television shows, including Bridges to Silence, her first speaking role. Guest appearances have included Spin City, Seinfeld (for which she was nominated for an Emmy), ER, Judging Amy, and The West Wing. She also appears periodically on Blue's Clues, playing "Marlee the librarian" and teaching sign language. Although she typically plays deaf characters, she portrayed a hearing woman in Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story. Forty-three years to the day after Lucille Ball pulled the same stunt, Matlin gave birth to her own child the same day her character on Picket Fences gave birth.
Matlin has also filled a number of roles outside the acting arena. In addition to having her own production company called Solo One, she was appointed in 1994 to the Board of Directors for the Corporation for National Service, and in 1995 served as chairperson for National Volunteer Week. She is currently the national spokesperson for VITAC, a provider of closed captioned television, and serves on the boards of a number of charitable organizations. She also wrote a novel for children called Caution: Deaf Child Crossing, which is to be published by Simon and Schuster in 2002.
Matlin lives in the Los Angeles area and is married to law enforcement officer Kevin Grandalski; their daughter Sarah Rose was born in 1996 and son Brandon Joseph was born in 2000. She enjoys enchiladas and teriyaki chicken, and is a big fan of baseball.