Acclaimed stage actress Marilee Talkington, who moved from her hometown of Woodland to find success off-Broadway in New York City, will appear in an upcoming episode of a popular TV crime procedural, giving a performance that's genuine in more ways than one.
Talkington is set to appear in the 350th episode of "NCIS," which airs Tuesday, and will portray a blind witness to an assault case, according to promotional materials and a recent press release.
The intrigue: Talkington herself is legally blind.
As noted this week by the Woodland Daily Democrat, Talkington was born with no central vision and depends on her peripheral sight. She has been legally blind in her peripherals since her early 20s, leaving her eyesight somewhere around 20/200.
"So often blind characters push into cliché. But Annie Barth (Talkington's NCIS character) was written as emotionally complex, humorous and powerful, which is incredibly rare," Talkington said in the press release. "What’s even rarer is to have a blind character be portrayed by an actual legally blind actor."
That rarity is noteworthy; The Democrat speculates that Talkington may be making history as the first legally blind actress to portray a legally blind character.
Given the vast number of actresses in work and performances that have been given in the history of TV and theater, and the wide spectrum of legal blindness, it's almost impossible to verify such a claim. Blind actors in general are certainly scarce; at a glance, many internet lists of notable blind people name musicians, authors and even athletes—but actors are hard to come by.
Talkington, 47, graduated from Woodland High School. She last performed in the area in 2010, bringing her one-woman show "Truce" to the Woodland Opera House, The Democrat reports. She has appeared in six off-Broadway/New York theater productions, according to the resume on her website, and has a Master of Fine Arts in acting from American Conservatory Theater. She has also written and directed.
Talkington also is set to appear in a supporting role in a TV pilot, "In the Dark," currently in production and being pitched to The CW, according to the press release.
Talkington received national attention last June for a social media post she penned, unrelated to her acting career, involving sexism in the scientific community.
Tens of thousands of Facebook users liked and shared a detailed account Talkington posted of her experience at the World Science Festival in New York. Talkington watched as the lone female scientist in a panel discussion on string theory was given little to no room to speak. Instead, the moderator explained the scientist's theories to the audience himself, which prompted Talkington to loudly demand: "Let. Her. Speak. Please!"
NCIS has been on the air since 2003 and is in its 15th season. It stars Mark Harmon.
Titled "Sight Unseen," the show's 350th episode will premiere on CBS, 7 p.m. Tuesday in most Sacramento-area markets (The episode airs at 8 p.m. for most of the West Coast; check your local listings.)