"Arleen Sorkin gets a kick out of being the Joker's wench,"

by Pat Jankiewicz (Starlog Magazine)

She looks normal. Sitting in a trendy Hollywood cafe, she comes across as a witty, spunky, sweet, wise-cracking blonde who has spent some quality time in front of television and film cameras. What the other patrons of this caf6 don't know is that Arleen Sorkin has a criminal past.
As Harley Quinn, Sorkin has played the joker's put-upon girl friend, a psychotic clown (and former psychiatrist) on Batman: The Animated Series. With her bone-white skin, dazed Judy Holliday-voice, one-sided love for the joker and odd quips like, "It is too laugh," Harley Quinn has become one of the series' most beloved characters. "I see Harley as a girl who wants to do the right thing, but it's just not within her control," Sorkin observes. "She wants to be a good girl but it's so much more her to be a bad one. I think she's popular because of her vulnerability. "

The actress landed the role in an unusual way. "I slept with Paul Dini," she jokes. "Actually, Paul and I have been friends since college-back at Emerson. He was home one day watching Days of Our Lives [a soap on which Sorkin appeared]. We did a dream sequence where I was a court jester and he said that was the inspiration for Harley. Paul called me up and said, 'Would you like to do this character?' I said yes and came over! I was born to play her." One wonders how the performer felt about having a character tailormade for her. "It's completely flattering " Sorkin says fondly. -"Knowing that makes it a joyful experience to play her. I don't feel I'll ever be recast so that's good too."
Sorkin sees several similarities between Harley and herself: "Her naturally blonde hair is certainly not me! Her occasional use of the word 'Oy!' is very much me, that fantastic figure is also me, as is her joie de vie and those high, pointy breasts!
"I love the name Harleen so much, that if I had to do it over again, I would have made my name Harleen instead of Arleen. It's a great name!
"Doing Batman has been terrific. When we talk, I know Paul's not really listening to me-he's filing; filing away ideas while I'm talking to him!"

She has nothing but praise for her "Mr. J." "Mark Hamill is a great guy. My ex-boy friend, Charlie Wessler, worked with Mark on Star Wars. Mark, Charlie and Carrie Fisher are all friends, so when I walked in and saw Mark, I knew him from parties! When I saw him do the joker, I was wildly impressed. He's an Amazing talent, there's nothing he can't do. He also has a great comic sense.
"The joke of it is, I would be so engrossed watching him do the joker that I would forget to pick up my line! Mark stands up so you can see him and I would be watching him, then it's like, 'Oh, my turn.' He's just so interesting to watch when he's playing the Joker."
She found Kevin Conroy (Batman/Bruce Wayne) to be "a very nice man. I don't have any personal relationship with him, but I like him very much. I think his underplaying of the role is brilliant."

Of all her episodes, Sorkin points to two all-time favorites. "My first is 'Harley and Ivy.' I love it because there's a great relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. Anybody who has ever had a girl friend obsessed with some guy, and you just wanted to tell her to 'get over yourself' can relate.
"I also love all her stuff pertaining to the Joker. I thought it was cute when Harley did the drawing of the joker's face in her salad. I also liked working with Diane Pershing [who voices Poison Ivy] very much.
"'Harley's Holiday,' where Harley gets out of prison, is my other favorite. I suggested that one to Paul. When I was on [the Fox TV series] Duet, -my character was a thief. I thought it would be a funny running gag if she wore outfits with the security tags still on them. They didn't take the idea so I brought it to Paul; the idea of having Harley walk out of a store wearing a dress with the tag still on. The security thing goes off and shes woried she'll go back to prision."
Sorkin remembers "The Laughing Fish" episode "because that's where I threw Batman in the shark tank. I got a lot of pleasure doing that," she grins. "It made me feel tough!"
In "The Man Who Killed Batman," Harley Quinn and the joker eulogize the Dark Knight in an unusual way. "That was the episode in which I got to play 'Amazing Grace' on the kazoo. I practiced it in the car on the way to the studio," Sorkin notes. "I remember during taping it was hard not to laugh, but I did it in one take. The minute it was over, I burst out laughing. It was hysterical just to be able to whimper through a kazoo! I can now put 'Kazoo' under special skills on my resume'," she jokes.
"Almost Got 'Im," where Harley is going to drop Catwoman into a catfood meat grinder, "was an episode that I thought had really great writing. It was also very ftinny." In "Lock-Up," Sorkin only had a cameo. "Not enough material!" she smiles. "I love the confession in 'Trial'," the show where criminals put Batman on trial for 'crimes' against them. "I really enjoyed my breaking down on the stand!"

Harlequinade," in which Batman and Harley Quinn form a reluctant truce to capture the joker, "is another favorite because I got to sing," she states. "We were going to a recording and i was singing in front of Paul.

It's an actual song called 'Say That We're Sweethearts Again,' from Meet the People, an old MGM movie. "I used to use it as an audition song back in New York and I knew Paul would think it was funny, so I sang it to him. That's when Paul decided to use the song-most people think he wrote it because nobody had ever heard of it before! I have it in my jukebox.
"It's a song about a woman who'll put up with anything in an abusive relationship. 'I never knew that our romance was over until you poisoned my food,' Sorkin sings. " thought it was a lark when you kicked me in the heart, but now I think it's rude!' It's a really funny song from 1930. Paul made it happen-he bought the song!"
According to Dini, "It took a year before found a graceful way to get that song on the show. I finally thought, 'Harley has to provide a distraction, how about we have her sing and just put the song in?' It's the one musical number we'll ever do on Batman!"
Sorkin feels that Harley Quinn's giant cult following "is more a credit to Paul than to me. Harley is totally Paul Dini & Bruce Timm's invention. Other than a few ideas from me, it's all them. I'm just an animal in a glass booth. They make it happen, they create it.
"It's really fun. Not that many people know or even recognize that it's my voice," she admits. "I'm working on Pride and joy, a good, fun show, and I wore the,jacket-Paul gave me a jacket with Harley on the back-and this guy was going nuts over it. "When I told him that I was Harley's voice, he was delighted. I guess the credits go by so fast, you don't know who does the voices.
he was so impressed. The fact that I'm producing a TV series meant nothing to him, but the fact that I had actually voiced Harley Quinn made me a goddess!"
Some fans view Harley as a hip take-off on the molls seen in TV's Batman. "I used to watch the Adam West series and I really liked it, but I would say Harley is more inspired by the molls in old James Cagney moviesand Guys & Dolls' Adelaide."

Before Batman, Sorkin's first animation job came when "Paul hired my then-writing partner Beth Milstein and I, to write two episodes of Tiny Toons Adventures. My first animated voice work was Harley. It was great fun because so much of my acting work has been built around my hair, my earrings, my hats and costumes. On Batman, I could come in looking like a total dog," she giggles. "It was really a treat! I like to say, 'What I've lacked in talent, I made up for in accessories!' Harley was the one job where I didn't have to rely on that at all."
The daughter of a dentist, the Washington, D.C.-born Sorkin debuted onstage very young. One of her first gigs came "when I danced as an elf with the New York City Ballet in A Midsuminer's Night Dream. I fainted at my Bat Mitzvah, so I got out of show business soon after that," she laughs.
"During my senior year in college, the head of the Theater Department told me, 'Go to New York, give it six months to two years, and if it doesn't work out, then you should teach.' He was probably going to every person in the room and saying the same thing, but I took it as," she lets out a melodramatic sigh, " 'He sees something in me!' I went to New York and started with a comedy group called 'The High Heeled Women.'
"We had a lot of success and I did alot of commercials and radio spots. In New York, I was an extra. Because I was also a shoe model, I had these gold lame' boots. Anytime they needed a hooker, they would call me because I had those boots! I was a hooker in movies like Fort Apache: The Bronx," she says demurely. "You've seen me leaning into cars in numerous films!
"I'm also in Trading Places with one line. [Director] John Landis has been a big supporter. I got the line in a weird way-I was an extra with a lot of cleavage. John came by, took a look and said, 'We've gotta do something with that cleavage!' He built a whole moment around me and my very large, pushedup breasts," she smiles. "Way before the Wonderbra, I knew how to work it!'

Batman isn't the only genre hero with whom she has partnered. "I was married to Q," she explains, "I guess that makes me 'Harley Q!'John de Lancie was my husband on Days of Our Lives. We had many blissful years of marriage together and we're still very good friends. I have a great story about john.
"We were the misfits on Days of Our Lives, but he was even worse than me! On his last day, he was leaving the show and wanted to go see ALIENS. John said,'We have some time between the first camera block and dress rehearsal, let's go to a movie.' I didn't want to go, but it was his last day and I wanted him to be happy.
"The real reason John wanted to go," Sorkin playfully reveals, "was that on Hollywood Boulevard, it was only a dollar if you went before noon! So, we go running to the theater. We watch almost the whole movie and ALIENS has like 10 endings! My heart is pounding, but after the second ending, I said, 'John, we have to go.' He would not leave, so I got mad at him and said, 'I'm going to the back of the theater and you better come because we're gonna be late for work and you're gonna get me fired!'
"I ran to the back of the theater and I'm waiting and watching, thinking he'll follow me, and he doesn't come," the actress laughs.
"I can't take my eyes off the screen because it's so compelling, so I walk back and finally sit behind him. Another ending goes by and just before the climax, I put my hand on his shoulder and loudly say, 'JOHN, WE HAVE TO...' and it wasn't John! It was some poor man, sitting all by himself. When I grabbed him, he stood up and screamed; I scared the shit out of him!"
John de Lancie's Next Generatio work reminds Sorkin of her childhood. "When I was little, I loved the original Star Trek, especially Susan Oliver in 'The Menagerie.' She was so cool in that. I always wanted to have someone say, 'Arleen Sorkin: No mortal man can resist her.' When I started Days of Our Lives, somebody wrote TV Guide and asked if I was her daughter! It was the most exciting day of my life; someone actually thought I even looked like Susan Oliver!"

Her future looks busy. Besides producing Pride and joy, she's even more happy with her latest project. "I just had a beautiful son, Eli Jonathan Lloyd," Arleen Sorkin says proudly. "I'm completely relying on Paul to introduce him to the world of animation. I've decided that I'm gonna start him on black-and-white Mickey Mouse cartoons!-"

© Starlog Magazine.