Marlee Matlin on Her Game-Changing Directorial Debut for ‘Accused’ | How She Did It Presented by FOX and Sony Pictures TV

“I haven’t had that opportunity yet, working with a deaf director. They got to get that opportunity with me,” the Oscar-winning actress says

When Marlee Matlin got the call to direct an episode of the Fox drama series “Accused,” it was an easy “yes” for multiple reasons. For one, it was the chance to work with executive producer Howard Gordon. But for another, she’d be making history.

“Here I am a deaf director directing two deaf actors and hearing actors, understanding that we were making history here me being the first deaf director, knowing that I’m helping open the door for other deaf directors after me to do exactly what I did,” the Oscar-winning actress said in the latest episode of TheWrap’s “How She Did It,” presented by FOX and Sony Pictures TV. “I haven’t had that opportunity yet, working with a deaf director. They got to get that opportunity with me.”

When Matlin signed on to direct the episode, which involves a deaf character on the witness stand, she made key changes that led to a more authentic production.

“Lauren Ridloff played our attorney, and that role in the original script was a hearing lawyer. I asked if we could change it to a deaf character,” she explained. “Bringing in a deaf attorney, it made sense because she wasn’t feeling the support. And working in tandem with this deaf attorney who believed in her, who supported her, who could express that to everyone, changed the whole journey of the story.”

Matlin brought authenticity to the entire production throughout the episode.

“Deaf people don’t say things like, ‘How are you doing, Jeff?’ They don’t talk like that,” she said. “They just say, ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine, good.’ We don’t call each other by name when we’re talking to you, because we’re seeing each other, so I said, ‘Do you mind changing the language here? Trust me.’ That’s what collaboration’s all about.”

She also wanted to make sure the sounds of sign language stayed in the show.

“I know that we as deaf people make sounds that we’re not aware of, that just come out of us innately,” she said. “And I wanted that to be part of the show because it was the most authentic presentation of deaf people.”

Matlin said it was “powerful” getting to call “action” and “cut” herself on set, and sees this as only the beginning of her career as a filmmaker.

“It couldn’t be more perfect to start off my directing career.”