Interview with Marlee Matlin


Matlin and the cast of The L Word at Showtime’s farewell party

AE: The only inhibitions you mention in your book about joining The L Word were that there were nude scenes and that it was a pretty racy departure from your previous roles. Did you have any other qualms about tackling the character of Jodi Lerner?

MM: Well other than the fact that I’d never had to do an actual full frontal nude scene, my only real qualm was being away from my family for four months out of the year to film the show. At first it was hard to adjust, and I was flying home nearly every weekend to be with my kids.

But fortunately, shooting was in the summer when the kids were busy having fun and hardly ever at home (mostly with Grandma or at the swim club). When fall came around and school started, it was a problem too as I wanted to be there for their first days.

But the producers were GREAT in letting me go down for days, and I never really felt like I missed out on important milestones in their lives. By the third season, it was a routine we had slipped into and those initial concerns seemed far away.

AE: You actually asked Ilene Chaiken to name your character “Jodi,” right? After a friend of yours?

MM: Yes, one member of a lesbian couple I had known from my daughter’s school was named Jodi. She died too soon of heart failure and Reiter’s Syndrome, a form of arthritis, and I wanted to honor her. She was a fantastic woman, wife and mom.

AE: Obviously, I’ve got to ask you about this quote from your book:

I have to admit I’ve found it so much easier to kiss a woman than a man. I love men and I am a huge flirt, and with cute, handsome guys, well, I can get nervous about that kiss. Make no mistake, I am absolutely in love and committed to my wonderful husband. But that electricity that comes with a first kiss with someone attractive and new, well, I may be married, but I’m still human.

Do you want to unpack that statement? Because what I’m hearing you say is “Jennifer Beals is an awesome kisser.”

MM: Unpack. Ha. I love that. But actually there’s not much luggage there. Jennifer Beals is hot. Simple as that. I had no qualms about kissing her. One, because we were friends and had been for 20 years, so I knew there wouldn’t be any judgments based on her not knowing who I was. Second, because we were familiar with each other. And in acting it’s so much easier to work with what you know than what you don’t know.

Left: Matlin and Beals in Life Magazine, 1987
Right: Matlin and Beals in
Glamour Magazine, 2008

With a lot of male actors in love scenes, it’s all about choreography because each of us has different working parts, if you know what I mean, and you’re never sure how your male costar likes to approach things. With a woman, it’s just easier. You both know where everything is and you can focus on the other stuff in the scene — the passion, etc.

With Jennifer I never had to worry about the physical part, I could focus on the acting. With a lot of male costars it was completely the opposite and thus much more difficult to feel as if I did it right.

Matlin and Beals on The L Word

AE: Are you glad to have spent three seasons with the show? Any regrets?

MM: My only regret was that we didn’t have the opportunity to explore Jodi’s life a lot more in the same way the other characters lives were explored. Who were her friends, what brought her to where she was on the show? By the last season we saw only small glimpses of her and I think a lot of the viewers felt conflicted about her. I loved the scenes that showed Jodi interacting with the other characters like Shane but unfortunately there weren’t enough.

Maybe if there’s an L Word movie and Jodi is in it. Hint, hint, Ilene? Ha!

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