Deaf actress Marlee Matlin is paying tribute to the stars that have helped define her incredible acting career.
Matlin won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1987 for her role in “Children of a Lesser God,” marking the first time that a Deaf actress has ever won an Oscar.
Reflecting on her recent success, the “CODA” star spoke with PEOPLE at Saturday’s 33rd annual Producers Guild of America Awards to reveal the other entertainers that helped shape her own career.
Marlee Matlin Praises Whoopi Goldberg For Being A ‘Great’ Mentor
“The Stand” actress Whoopi Goldberg and Matlin first appeared together in 1992’s “The Player,” six years after Matlin won her Oscar. She also reconnected with Whoopi while appearing on an episode of “The View” last month.
Speaking through an American Sign Language interpreter, Matlin said, “I’ve had some great mentors in my life,” mentioning Whoopi as an example.
“She’s gone through a great deal of breaking barriers,” Matlin explains. “And she set an example for me as well. I have good friends and, most importantly, I have a family who supports me, who have my back.”
She also credited Henry Winkler as another fantastic mentor. Winkler was reportedly the one “who told me to not let anyone define me, not let anyone tell me no.” She added, “And just like anybody who has a dream or a goal or a desire, I shouldn’t let my deafness stop me. And so I never let my deafness define me.”
Marlee Matlin Is Reveling In The Success Of ‘CODA’
The film “CODA” won the headline prize for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Picture at Saturday’s PGA Awards, marking it as a strong Oscar contender for Best Picture. Co-star Troy Kotsur has scored several big wins for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film and is expected to take home the Academy Award as well, making him the first Deaf male and the second Deaf actor to win an Academy Award.
“Today, what I’m excited about is the fact that people are really getting involved. They’re expressing their opinions. They’re having conversations,” Matlin added. “And it’s more exciting that I’m not the only one anymore. There are costars now with me who are experiencing this, that never have experienced in their depth. And so it’s nice to be with them and to be part of their journey.”
‘CODA’ Won Several Key Awards At The Sundance Film Festival
The film first premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, where it picked up the coveted Grand Jury Prize, as well as the Audience Award, Directing Award, and U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble. Apple bought the rights to the film for a record-setting $25 million dollars. The critically acclaimed film has been recognized through nominations at all of the major award ceremonies: the BAFTA Awards, the Critics Choice Awards, the Artios Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, the PGA Awards, and the WGA Awards.
Speaking through her long-time interpreter Jack Jason, Matlin said, “I hope studios take notice that you can have more than one Deaf actor, and they don’t have to be in the background. I hate getting political about this kind of stuff, but Deaf actors can play many different roles, just like everybody else. So why not use them more to create a different perspective?”
Marlee Matlin Is Looking Forward To More Opportunities For Deaf Culture
— SAG Awards® (@SAGawards) February 28, 2022
“CODA” picked up the win for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 2022 Screen Actor’s Guild Awards earlier this year. During the acceptance speech, Matlin thanked the SAG Award committee and Apple TV+ “for trusting us, for believing in us, our movie… you bought it for $25 million dollars at Sundance. Only $25 million,” she joked.
She also thanked writer-director Sian Heder: “Thank you for writing the words that included Deaf culture. We love you.” She also issued her thanks to ASL interpreters and CODAs all over the world, which included her four children.
“You are all our peers. We Deaf actors have come a long way,” Matlin signed through her interpreter. “Thirty-five years… I have been seeing so much work out there all this time. I’ve watched all of your films, and I pay the deepest respect to all of you.”
“This validates the fact that we Deaf actors work just like everyone else,” she continued. “We look forward to more opportunities for Deaf actors and Deaf culture.”