In the sixth cycle of the hit ballroom-dancing competition/reality series, Matlin lasted into week six, earning consistent 7s and 8s (out of 10) from the judges.
So, Matlin knows about working hard to learn something new and unfamiliar, and she appreciates others that do the same. That includes possibly the show’s most talked-about contestant, Bristol Palin, who came in third in the most recent “DWTS” season.
On Wednesday (Dec. 15), in a break in her trailer between takes during a guest-starring appearance on CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” tentatively scheduled to air on Thursday, Feb. 3, Matlin tells Zap2it in sign language, through an interpreter, “My opinion on Bristol is that I really applaud her. I saw, from the very beginning, that she wasn’t a good dancer, but she had her own identity. She didn’t give a f**k that she was the daughter of Sarah Palin, and I could see that.
“Then I saw, week-by-week, the transformation of her really blossoming. She didn’t deserve to be the top winner, she didn’t deserve that, but I think she she deserved to be in the third slot — maybe fourth spot would have been better. I didn’t think Brandy should have been knocked off.
“She did come a long way. I mean, that’s what the show is about — be a crummy dancer or have no talent at all and grow. There was evidence of that. I got a chance to tell her mother, in an elevator, in New York.”
Turns out that fate brought together Matlin and the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice-presidential candidate, who is now a Fox News contributor and has her own documentary series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” airing Sunday on TLC.
“I was in the elevator already,” says Matlin, “and she walked in, without a bodyguard. She and her husband walked in. I said, ‘Well, well, Mrs. Palin,’ and she turned around, ‘Marlee Matlin!’ I said, ‘Hello, it’s nice to meet you.’ And she said, ‘You speak very clearly.’ And she said, ‘My son is learning to sign, the son with Down syndrome.’
“And I said, ‘I heard that, and I think that’s great.’ We spoke as two mothers back and forth. Then I said to her how proud I was of Bristol, and that she should be, too, and I told her why, with my observation.
“She said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ and gave me a hug. Elevator opened, and she walked out. My interpreter said that he heard her say, ‘Wow!’
“You understand, I don’t support her politics, but as a woman and as a mother, yes, just like any other mother. And she’s really pretty.”
Reached by email, Gov. Palin recalls the encounter, writing, “That is so nice! She was so gracious when we met, and we got to talk about Trig learning sign language. Having that small but meaningful connection was sweetly surreal. I have always admired Marlee.”