Starring in "Children of a Lesser God" at age 21, Marlee Matlin became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar and one of only four actresses to receive that honor for a film debut. Born and raised in Morton Grove, Illinois, Matlin started acting at the age of seven in the role of Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at a children's theatre company in Chicago. She was discovered in a Chicago stage production of "Children of a Lesser God." She was then selected to star in the film version.
Matlin made her TV debut in CBS' "Bridge to Silence." She went on to star for two seasons in the series "Reasonable Doubts." She was twice nominated for both a Golden Globe as well as a People's Choice Award. Matlin was nominated for two Emmys for her guest turns on "Seinfeld" and "Picket Fences." Matlin also starred in "Against Her Will: The Carrie Buck Story," a movie for Lifetime Television, for which she was nominated for a CableACE Award for Best Actress in a Movie or Mini-Series. She broke down yet another barrier with the role, playing a character who wasn't deaf. Matlin returned to CBS' "Picket Fences" to reprise her Emmy-nominated role. Coincidentally, her character on "Picket Fences" gave birth on the same day she gave birth in real life, a feat repeated exactly 43 years to the day by Lucille Ball on "I Love Lucy" on the same network, CBS.
For seven seasons, Matlin starred as pollster Joey Lucas, on NBC's Emmy Award winning series "The West Wing." She received her third Emmy Award nomination for her work on ABC's "The Practice," and guest starred on NBC's "Law and Order: SVU," receiving a fourth Emmy nomination for her work. In 2007, she joined the cast of Showtime's "The L Word." She returned for a second season in 2008. Most recently, Matlin competed on Season 6 of "Dancing with the Stars."
Matlin published a novel for children entitled "Deaf Child Crossing" in 2002, followed by "Nobody's Perfect," in summer 2006, and "Leading Ladies" in 2007. She has appeared on Sesame Street. She has also performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" in sign language for two Super Bowls.
In 1994, Matlin was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to the Board of Directors for the Corporation for National Service. In 1995, Matlin served as Chairperson for National Volunteer Week, and was honored in a White House Rose Garden ceremony by the President.
Matlin serves as a national spokesperson for The American Red Cross. In 1992, she was instrumental in getting Congress to pass federal legislation requiring all TVs manufactured in the U.S. be equipped with closed-captioning technology. She serves on the boards of a number of charitable organizations. She has also combined her charity work with commercial ventures and has appeared in numerous commercials and public service announcements, on behalf of corporate sponsors such as Target, Sprint, and Toys R Us, each designed to raise awareness about the importance of donating to charitable organizations. In 2006, Matlin was honored by America Online as Chief Everything Officer, highlighting the important contributions of mothers in both home and work environments.
In April 2009, Matlin released her bestselling memoir "I'll Scream Later," published by Simon and Shuster. Currently, Matlin is developing a half-hour comedy for Showtime with writer/producer Carol Leifer.
Matlin makes her home in the greater Los Angeles area. She and her husband have four children.
Marlee Matlin understands the importance of hearing aids and has used them all her life, so she has chosen the Starkey Hearing Foundation as her charity. The Starkey Hearing Foundation travels around the globe and provides hearing aids, free of charge, to deaf and hard-of-hearing people who can't afford this life-changing technology. Every year, the foundation conducts more than 100 hearing mission trips worldwide, providing more than 20,000 hearing aids to the hearing impaired. Marlee is proud to have participated in such missions, and to be playing for the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
1. What got you interested in being on Celebrity Apprentice?
A couple of things got me interested in doing Apprentice. First, it was the opportunity to have a network audience see me raise money for my charity, the Starkey Hearing Foundation; they do so much good work. Historically charities having to do with deaf and hard of hearing people just haven't gotten that much attention. So I thought I'd put my energies into getting them on the map and do it through the generosity of the producers at Celebrity Apprentice and Mr. Donald Trump.
Secondly, I wanted a chance to work outside of my comfort zone, show people I can do other things than simply being "the deaf actress." It's so easy to stereotype someone like myself so why not use the chance to show that people like myself go to work everyday, use interpreters, and make things happen - and don't let being deaf stand in our way? Seeing me as "real" I think translates to seeing the millions of people out there who are deaf or hard of hearing being in a better light.
2. How did you get involved with your chosen charity?
Starkey Hearing Foundation and I hooked up about eight years ago when they presented me with an award for being a leader/inspiration in the deaf and hard of hearing community. When I went to accept the award, I learned about the wonderful work they do on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing children around the world, particularly in Third World countries - providing free hearing aids and hearing testing, all through the generous gift of private donors. I saw three kids walk on stage who told their stories of never being able to afford a hearing aid or living in a place too poor to even get tested, but thanks to Starkey, their lives had changed. Right then and there, I just had to jump on board.
I believe what they do for these kids is just a miracle. Each mission that I've been on, whether to Mexico, Africa, or even in the U.S., has profoundly touched my heart. Being deaf myself, I know what the gift of hearing through getting a hearing aid means, and I absolutely felt the joy in each child's face when they got THEIR first hearing aids. Starkey is helping make dreams come true for those children who choose to get a hearing aid, and I'd do anything for them to help that happen.
3. What is it like competing against fellow celebrities?
This was my first time competing AGAINST people, working with people on a single task. When I did "Dancing with the Stars," my work was pretty much solo; I had to perfect my dance, to show people that I could do it but there wasn't much in the way of interaction with the other contestants. On "Celebrity Apprentice" it was ENTIRELY different. I was in a room of eight distinctive personalities, each with their own opinions. I have to say it was very amusing, and there were times when I was absolutely caught off-guard by the way people reacted to each other. I recall saying that my kids behaved better than they did! But hey, it's a GAME and nothing should be taken personally. In the end, we were all there for our charities so let's get the job done and win; that was my attitude.
4. What about the competition was harder than you might have expected?
Not hard, just challenging. I think a lot of them thought I had "help" with my interpreter and might have questioned that. All I can say is that he was there to let me in on what everyone was saying. Often times that meant letting me in on conversations that eight people were having at ONCE. That was challenging, but as I said, I came prepared to be challenged and to work.
It was also tough to learn how to do various tasks that contestants are given; all that has to be done within the time frame of ONE day. But I'm never been afraid of hard work or a challenge and I'm always open to communicate and ask questions. As long as I LISTENED, I was okay. I think being able to LISTEN is a skill one absolutely needs to do this competition.
5. Do you have a favorite past winner or contestant from the first three seasons of Celebrity Apprentice?
I loved Piers Morgan's English bluntness, and I LOVED Joan River's moxie. I also loved Sharon Osbourne's and Holly Robinson Peete's honesty and tenacity.
1. What moment or moments on the show were you surprised to see? Were you particularly surprised by anyone's behavior on the show?
The behavior at time bordered on childish. Seriously, my kids behaved better than some of these people. But then if they didn't go crazy as they did, maybe not as many people would've watched. Admittedly, being crazy can make for some good TV watching but sometimes the anger and the ignorance was just out of hand! Dionne's comments about being deaf as "sad" really surprised me as I said. That really caught me off guard.
2. Do you feel as though you've made any lasting friendships and business relationships from the show? With who?
They're all good people and I wouldn't mind hanging out with any. But most of them live out in New York and outside of Los Angeles. The only one I'd really love to hang with and have a business relationship is with Mr. Trump. That's because I feel I should be THE Celebrity Apprentice!
3. What was the best part of your experience? Why?
Learning about business from Donald Trump. He may be opinionated, he may ruffle some feathers but he is successful and he knows what he wants and goes after it. I admire that. It reminds me of how I approach life and I'd love to be able to continue the relationship on a business level. He's so good at it!
4. Do you feel changed in any way by the experience? Has it had a lasting impact on your approach to life?
I certainly was never one to be afraid of a challenge but the show took the philosophy to a new level of intensity! Direct, design, cook, sell, run, jump, and sit in the boardroom, I've done it all and anything after this experience will seem like a piece of cake!
5. What has the experience taught you about people?
Each person is different and that you just can't expect to start out being best buddies. Time and space is needed to get to know people. Meanwhile, treat everyone with respect and wait and see what happens. If they treat you the same way back then you're fine. And if they don't, recognize it or run in the opposite direction!! Ha!