‘Life and Deaf’ Life and Deaf Brings Disability Inclusion to the Sitcom World

Published on January 15, 2021

Life and Deaf is a Disney+ series in the works that’s already drawing interest and anticipation from subscribers. The comedy series will star Marlee Matlin, known for The West Wing, Switched at Birth, and The L Word. Matlin is also the only deaf actress to win an Academy Award for her role in Children of a Lesser God.

The series is from creators Lizzy Weiss and Patricia Heaton. Weiss created Switched at Birth. The series is personal for Matlin. The comedy is based on Jack Jason’s life. Jason was Matlin’s long-time interpreter. They’ve been close for a long time and, based on her memoir, been through a lot together. 

The show is set in the ‘70s, following Jason growing up with deaf parents. Disney+ teased a mysterious plot beyond the family, though. “Mischief that ensues when, as their ears and mouthpiece, he is given the ‘keys to the kingdom,’ according to the plot description. 

Matlin has broken ground in Hollywood before and will continue to do so with the Disney+ series. Over the years, she’s starred in Syfy’s beloved series, The Magicians, as well as ABC’s Quantico. The actress’ roles will continue to break down stigmas about the deaf community, as Hearing Like Me author, Steffani Cameron, once pointed out. “Matlin, alternatively, relies upon sign language to be her voice,” said Cameron. “Even with her severe hearing loss, she proves that being Deaf doesn’t impede her ability to think or express ideas or form strong opinions about life. She has achieved amazing things in her career thus far. Thirty years ago she won the Best Actress Academy Award, and still remains the only deaf winner. In 2009, she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And what of her turn on The Apprentice? She earned what stands as the most money ever raised for a charitable event on the series — $986,000.”

Disney+ has still yet to comment on the series, but it’s been in the works since 2019. Given the impact of COVID-19, it wouldn’t be surprising if the series has faced production delays. According to IMDB, Matlin remains the only announced actor in the cast. Hopefully, the series will happen sooner than later because it will be another groundbreaking piece of entertainment with Matlin involved. Disney hasn’t made many, if any, shows starring characters with a disability. 

For a long time, Disney has faced allegations for a serious lack of representation in their movies, especially their biggest films to date. With Life and Deaf, the series could be a defining moment in entertainment. On top of that, considering the talent involved, we should expect a lot of heart and laughs.

Matlin uses her power for good in the industry and beyond. She did once appear on The Apprentice, and years later, she went on to back the National Association of the Deaf’s lawsuit against the White House. The Association called for President Donald Trump to have sign language interpreters present for the COVID-19 briefings. “It’s appalling,” Marlee Matlin said. “This is not a trivial request. It’s about the [Americans with Disabilities Act]. It’s about the pandemic. They know very well. They’re depriving us of the opportunity to participate. It’s unfathomable.”

Again, Matlin uses her platform for good. With Life and Deaf, she’ll continue to do so. Disney+ subscribers should keep an eye out for the half-hour comedy in the future because it’ll break new ground. 

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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