Episode #38: Fierceness in the Face of Uncertainty with Actor Marilee Talkington

Marilee Talkington is an award-winning actor, creator of original work for stage and screen,  director, and activist for women and artists with disabilities. Marilee has originated more than 60 stage characters, and takes a fearless stance on women being heard, and celebrating all types of uniqueness and diversity, both on and off the stage. Marilee speaks to the beauty in listening, her journey into acting and creative work, and offers examples of situations in which perseverance and growth reign supreme, no matter how uncomfortable the level of challenge and discomfort.


[1:57] Marilee comes from a line of very strong women that shaped her own ferocity and openness to other culture and communities. Her mother is blind and of mixed race, and Marilee herself is one-eighth Japanese and one-eighth Mexican. Growing up of mixed ethnicity, she remembers a palpable feeling of otherness, but this also opened the door to an appreciation of those that are ‘other.’

[8:54] Marilee wrote and self-published an acting training book called The Zen Handbook for Actors after a Summer Training Congress at the American Conservatory Theater in 2000. She was inspired to capture the lessons and quotes of her teacher, Gregory Wallace, based on listening, going with the flow and overcoming obstacles.

[10:24] Marilee sees acting as an empathetic exercise to understand that character she plays, and the people around her through her own work within her character.

[12:18] Marilee’s mother took the struggle of her own blindness and channeled the experience into advocate work for others suffering from blindness and low vision. When Marilee was born with the same condition of Cone-Rod dystrophy, her mother did everything in her power to make sure Marilee was included and streamlined to receive all the traditional experiences and opportunities of those around her.

[15:03] At a young age, Marilee chose to look people directly in the eye and pretend as though she could see them. She discusses the profound loss that came with the act of compensating her own truth to connect and make herself fit in and experience comfort.

[24:42] Marilee is candid and open about the shifts going on both in herself personally and within her career as it all levels up. She is deeply uncomfortable but embracing the twists and turns.

[30:05] Marilee shares the story at the World Science Festival where she attended a discussion on theoretical physics. Of the six panelists, five were men and one was a woman, Dr. Veronika Hubeny. Marilee’s bold and brave response to Dr. Hubeny getting interrupted and talked over made international headline news.

[37:13] Lisa and Marilee talk about the intense transitions throughout life both moving in and out of acting, loss of certain identities and within personal relationships. Each shift seems to lead to an amplification and larger stage for each woman to share their own gift, and bring out the gifts of others around them.

[42:02] Marilee describes her experience on NCIS, appearing on the episode “Sight Unseen”. Everyone on the set was open to her suggestions, including writer Brendan Fehily, and the rich details that came with her showing up with authentic representation.

[51:40] Marilee finds great reward in being part of a mastermind and accountability group. It helps her realize herself in the largest and most joyous way, regardless of the fear or uncertainty.


“My only job here on this planet is to realize the fullest potential of myself in the most epic, joyous, creative, courageous, wild way.”

“Acting is an empathetic exercise.”

“I watched my mother navigate a world that didn’t include her.”

“Eyes aren’t the windows of the soul — the ears are.”

“All of a sudden, I’m not the person that strives, I’m the person that has.

“My biggest action is to trust, and practice inaction.

“Stay open, be curious.”

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