Interview with Marlee Matlin

AE: What’s your take on the current state of same-sex marriage rights in the U.S.?

MM: Anyone regardless of their sexual preference should be able to MARRY whomever they want. Period. Asking gays and lesbians to accept any less (i.e. civil unions) is not equal. I respect and understand people’s opinions that marriage is between a man and a woman, but why do their opinions have to prevent two people, regardless of their sexual preference, from getting married?

Matlin tweets her support of same-sex marriage rights last month

As my pal Whoopi Goldberg said, “If they don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry one!” What does it have to do with them? It’s just a matter of time before it’ll be available everywhere but in the meantime, we all have the right to speak up about the injustice of marriage inequality and try and help make the change come sooner.

AE: At the age of seven, when your teacher at the Center on Deafness and the Arts asked you if you wanted to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, you said, “I am Dorothy.” Are there any other roles you’ve taken on where you just felt like, “I am this character”?

MM: I tackle every character with gusto; that’s just who I am. There have been times when I didn’t feel comfortable with what I was doing because I may have taken the role simply for the money (all actors have those moments) but more times than not, I have embraced each character I have played and learned to live in their shoes.

It’s my favorite thing about acting and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

AE: In your book you tell a story about going on a helicopter ride as a child, even though you were terrified. You said, “Often the ‘thing’, whatever it was, that I feared the most turned into something I loved.”

You’ve won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award; you’ve done comedy, drama and cartoons to lavish praise from critics; you’ve written books; you’ve performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl; you’ve danced beautifully with the Stars, and now even have your own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; you have four wonderful children; and you’ve made out with Jennifer Beals. Are there still fears in your life you have to break through, or at this point have you pretty much conquered the world?

MM: The fears I have left in my life have to do with overcoming my own insecurities about myself, but I’m working on them. I still consider myself a very shy person in many situations and I’d like to change that. I also have fears of certain things that have to do with loss of control: fear of horses (they’re so big and I’m afraid I can’t control them); fear of small spaces (claustrophobia that goes back to the William Hurt experience). Again, they have to do with a feeling that I have no control. I’m working on those but mostly I am a fearless person when it comes to acting.

Matlin receiving her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May

I want to tackle every role that’s out there, regardless of whether they see a Deaf person in it or not. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Really the only handicap I face is not my inability to hear but what people think it is I can’t do.

Once I overcome that, I can do anything. (Well, except sing the “Star Spangled Banner”… but I can sign it!)

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