Arleen Sorkin, who played the irrepressible Calliope Jones on Days of our Lives, passed away on August 26, 2023.
Arleen Sorkin: The Voice That Inspired
The actress was 67 at the time of her passing. According to Dino Cencia, who posted for friend Diane Pershing on Facebook, “I am devastated at the passing of my dear friend and coworker, Arleen Sorkin, who was Harley Quinn to my [Poison] Ivy in Batman: the animated series. I used to visit her when she was bedridden with her long term illness and I would read to her, and I loved her very very much.”
Devastated to learn we’ve lost the brilliant Arleen Sorkin,” tweeted actor Mark Hamill (Star Wars), who voiced The Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. “Not just a wonderful talent, but a truly wonderful person. I’m grateful not only to have worked with her, but to have been her friend. 🙏 Sending my heartfelt condolences to her family & loved ones. 💔.”
Born October 14, 1955, in Washington, D.C., Sorkin began her entertainment career in the late 1970s doing cabaret and, later, the comedy group, The High-Heeled Women, with Mary Fulham, Tracey Berg, and Cassandra Danz.
In 1982, the petite blonde appeared on Saturday Night Live as the Woman in a Fur Coat and in the Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy film Trading Places as Woman at Party. It was in 1984 that she landed the role of Calliope Jones on Days of our Lives where she really made an impression on viewers. She landed in the fictional town of Salem as a dressmaker in Liz Curtis’s (Gloria Loring) clothing business but quickly found herself in the middle of a mess when she stumbled upon a diamond necklace owned by Daphne DiMera (Madlyn Rhue). One white lie and her character was thrust front and center.
Not too long after joining the cast, Sorkin found herself paired with John de Lancie, who played Eugene Bradford. The quirky pair became fan favorites due to their comic timing and memorable performances. She went on to earn two Daytime Emmy nominations for her role as Calliope, a role she would play on and off through 2010.
The perky actress rounded out her resume with primetime roles in such series as The New Mike Hammer, Duet, Open House, Dream On, Room for Romance, and movies such as From Here to Maternity, Oscar, Ted and Venus, I Don’t Buy Kisses Anymore, and Perry Mason: The Case of the Killer Kiss.
Her unique voice and talent landed her a hosting gig on America’s Funniest People from 1990 – 1992 and paved the way for voiceover jobs that would win her fans worldwide. It started with the 1991 job on the animated show, Taz-Mania. Later, her old college friend, and writer, Paul Dini, was inspired by something he heard in her voice when she was playing Calliope, which you can see in the tweet below, which led him to create the character of Harley Quinn for the series, Batman: The Animated Series.
Hamill posted a birthday tribute to her in 2020 on social media that summed Sorkin’s talent brilliantly, “In the script, she was just an unnamed Joker ‘hench-wench’ w/no discernible personality. When Arleen began reading her lines in that unforgettable voice so poignant & full of heart, I nearly fell off my chair! She brought SO much more than was on the page & a legend was born.”
Sorkin stayed busy doing voiceovers for the DC Universe all the way up to 2012, giving voice and depth to the character of Harley Quinn beyond the Batman series in such shows as Superman: The Animated Series, Gotham Girls, Static Shock, Justice League, Comic Book: The Movie, and DC Universe Online.
In addition to her acting, singing, comedy, and voiceover work, Sorkin was a talented writer penning the movie, Picture Perfect, starring Jennifer Aniston, Jay Mohr, and Kevin Bacon, with co-writers Paul Slansky and May Quigley, and episodes of TV series Down Home, Tiny Toon Adventures, Fired Up, and How to Marry a Billionaire.
In 2010, the actress put her producer cap on and went on to win a 2011 Peabody Award and an Independent Documentary Association Award for her feature, Bhutto, based on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a polarizing figure in the Muslim world and the 2008 Pakistan election before her death. The film also received a Primetime Emmy nod the following year for Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story – Long Form the following year.
In 1999, Arleen Sorkin married Frasier writer, Christopher Lloyd, and they have two sons, Eli and Owen. Soap Hub sends its sincere condolences to family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.