Get ready Jets fans, one of our favorites will be on the show
Heather Mills competed with a prosthetic leg on Dancing With the Stars. Next up: a woman who can't hear the music.
Marlee Matlin says she's not worried. The Oscar-winning actress (Children of a Lesser God) is one of 12 celebrities announced Monday for the latest round of ABC's hit ballroom dance show, premiering March 17 (8 ET/PT).
Mills, who wowed Season 4 viewers and Dancing's judges with gutsy performances, "really made an impression," says Matlin, who has severely limited hearing. "She really raised awareness of what someone with a physical disability can do."
Matlin hopes she'll boost the image for the nation's 26 million deaf and hearing-impaired. "Deaf people can do anything except hear. My deafness will limit my ability only if I let it," says Matlin, 42.
Matlin's career has largely been defined by dramatic roles, including her current run on Showtime's The L Word. She hopes Dancing viewers will see her lighter side.
Learning ballroom dance might not be as hard as some would believe, she says. "Seeing as I haven't let my it affect my acting, I don't think I'll have more difficulty than other cast members," she says. "You try to imagine what it's like when you can't hear the music. I'll let my partner be my music."
Digital hearing aids help her distinguish some sounds. "Imagine yourself in the shower with the door closed and you can kind of hear the stereo in the next room at a reduced volume," says Jack Jason, her producing partner and interpreter.
Matlin's husband, Kevin, and four preteen children are big fans of Dancing With the Stars and were excited she had been asked to appear. She also consulted her friend, director/choreographer Anne Fletcher (Hairspray, 27 Dresses). "Anne said, 'You've got the moves,' " Matlin says. "Then it was me telling the producers, 'OK, you've got me.' "
Matlin says she's more worried about a pratfall than her limited hearing. "The stairs at the front of the stage — I'm thinking heels, stairs, and I start to sweat."
Matlin and other celebrity competitors are in Chicago today to meet and tape The Oprah Winfrey Show episode airing Thursday.
What Dancing With the Stars' 11 other celebrities have to say about joining the show's Season 6:
•Tony award winner Marissa Jaret Winokur, 35: "I want to wear the spray-on tan. The costumes. I just want to be part of that fun party thing."
•Actor and radio personality Adam Carolla, 43: "It's like a cosmic joke. Dancing's really the one thing I don't do."
•Actress Shannon Elizabeth, 34: "I've always wondered how I'd do. It looks like fun."
•Actor Cristián de la Fuente, 33: "I guess they needed one Latino per show. They went down the list and said, 'Let's call Cristián.' I don't want to let them down."
•Actor Steve Guttenberg, 49: "It's my mom's favorite show."
•Actor/entertainer Penn Jillette, 52: "When you look like Sasquatch, it's more comfortable watching the show."
•R&B singer Mario, 21: "This is definitely something new for me. It's exciting. Every time I watch the show, I'm amazed how honest and real everyone is."
•Actress/businesswoman Priscilla Presley, 62: "I'm putting myself out there. I'm out of my comfort zone. But what makes you grow is taking chances."
•Tennis star Monica Seles, 34: "I'm a tennis player. I don't know a tango from a mango."
•Miami Dolphins football star Jason Taylor, 33: "What are my teammates going to say? Good question."
•Olympic skater Kristi Yamaguchi, 36: "I have the feeling people will expect more from me. But this is a whole new experience."