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ABC’s QUANTICO Executive Producer Michael Seitzman, Marlee Matlin Talk Working With A Deaf Actor

It was so awesome chatting with ABC’s QUANTICO Executive Producer Michael Seitzman and Actor Marlee Matlin about the show! Read about how Seitzman and Matlin handle working with a deaf actor and character throughout the show. QUANTICO airs Thursdays at 10|9c on ABC.

photo: Louise Bishop/Mom Start

When I was in Los Angeles for the Avengers: Infinity War movie premiere, the group I was with got the chance to step away from the Marvel scene for a little bit and chat all things QUANTICO with Executive Producer & Showrunner Michael Seitzman and Academy Award Winning Actor Marlee Matlin (“Jocelyn Turner”)! First, we screened the season 3 premiere episode of the show, which aired on ABC last week, and then Seitzman and Matlin came in for a candid chat about the show.

photo: QUANTICO – “The Conscience Code” (ABC/Giovanni Rufino)

ABC’s Quantico Executive Producer Michael Seitzman, Marlee Matlin Talk About Working With A Deaf Actor

This was unlike any interview room I have ever been in, because there was one extra person who walked into the room along with Seitzman and Matlin. If you are not aware, Matlin not only plays a deaf woman in the show, but she is also deaf in real life. The extra person was her ASL signing interpreter Jack, and wow – what an awesome time we had! I wanted to share a few things that both Michael and Marlee said about their roles and involvement in ABC’s QUANTICO and how they’ve been able to adjust to working with her as a deaf actor.

QUANTICO Producer Michael Seitzman

Seitzman had worked with Marlee Matlin in a previous show, and when casting her for her role in QUANTICO, he wanted to use her deafness as a way to tell the story, both ignoring it, and utilizing it throughout, just like he did in the past. “When I took on Quantico, the natural [thought] was ‘I want to do that again’. I want to work with that actress, with that talent, and also with what looks from the outside from people who are not deaf to be a disadvantage and to find the advantage in it. That’s what we did in the show, we found the advantage in it, which is basically Marlee’s life as I see it from an outsider, is someone who’s taken something that looks like a disadvantage to some and has made it an advantage. And that’s very exciting and very gratifying.

Before they started writing season 3, Matlin sat down with Seitzman and the writers to learn about here and what her life is like in connection to how her character would be portrayed. They text with her a lot, on set and off, to make sure everything make sense in her scripts. “The session with Marlee was the most illuminating for us because we got to ask the questions head on and ask how it feels to be in this situation, how it feels to be in that situation. And we got to learn a little bit

Another thing that Seitzman said that got me – sorta off topic – was that they purposely go out of their way to make their audience frustrated. Excuse me? YES. “I mean we are as storytellers I think people that watch television or watch a movie, they don’t realize that the primary job of the writer and the filmmaker is to frustrate the audience, not to give the audience what they want. To put it another way, the audience always wants their favorite couple to get together. And we sit in a room. The bulk of our time is spent trying to figure out ways to keep them apart.” Isn’t this rude? How could you do this to us?!?! Why can’t they just be together?! I guess it keeps us hooked.

QUANTICO’s Marlee Matlin

I loved meeting Marlee Matlin, she is such a bright beautiful person with a smile that lights up a room! I will say that it was interesting for me to look at both her and her interpreter when she would sign, and hearing the words from him took some adjusting to. After awhile, I did not focus on the interpreter at all, Matlin has a great way of expressing herself and along with the words from the interpreter and her gestures, I started to feel like she was the one talking. 

Matlin says that she met Michael Seitzman at a party and he told her how much he loved her and wanted to put her in one of his shows. “He really honored his promise of putting me on a show, and so sure enough I heard from him just a few weeks later about making an appearance on Code Black. And I had such a great time working with Michael on Code Black.” He later contacted her and was interested in writing in a character for her on Quantico, which is now Jocelyn Turner, all because he loved working with her. Matlin says, “I have to give Michael credit because he’s one of the few people in Hollywood who understands how to use someone like myself, who understands not to dwell on the disability, not to dwell, I mean the “dis” in ability, but to look at the ability.” It’s also neat that she’s “playing an FBI agent and dealing with the people in situations, dealing in crises, being a sniper, being someone who uses my eyes as a means and surveillance, where a lot of people who aren’t deaf don’t use.” That’s really special, and unique for an actor. 

One thing that Matlin said that was interesting to me was that the cast members had to get used to shooting on set with a deaf person. Typically, you don’t need to look at each other to hear words, but signing is a visual requirement! Matlin said, “On the first day in the first scenes, everybody was ready. They knew their lines. As we were doing a rehearsal I said, oh, you know, you need to look at me. And then they all start to realize it immediately. It was interesting to watch the process of having them realize to learn a whole new way of looking at a situation with the deaf factor in it. And they picked it up like that. For example, Priyanka, the first day, there was a scene where some character looked away. Priyanka said, ‘guys, you need to look at Marlee.’” 

Catch season 3 of QUANTICO on ABC, Thursdays at 10/9c!

I really enjoyed interviewing Michael Seitzman and Marlee Martin, they were so warm and friendly, and you can tell they genuinely love this show! The next episode of QUANTICO airs on ABC tonight at 10|9c, watch on tv or you can stream it on the app. Entitled ‘Fear and Flesh’, the episode synopsis is as follows: “In tracking down the origin of a deadly strain of tuberculosis threatening Americans, Agent Ryan Booth must go undercover and infiltrate a white supremacist organization – an assignment that threatens the life of another member of the team.” Ooohhhh sounds good! 

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I attended a press trip to the Marvel Avengers Infinity War event courtesy of Disney. Travel, lodging and other logistics are provided, opinions are those of Honey + Lime.

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