Arleen Sorkin, the veteran actress who starred in Days of Our Lives and originated the role of Harley Quinn in the animated DC Universe, has died. She was 67.
A representative for Sorkin’s husband, television producer and screenwriter Christopher Lloyd, confirmed to EW that she died after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. The family asks that any donations be made to the National MS Society.
“We will always remember our dear Arleen for her immense generosity of spirit,” the family said in a statement. “Talented, yes, and dogged, too, as evidenced by her tenacious, decades-long fight with a terrible disease. But more than that, she was a loving presence in the lives of her two boys, Eli and Owen; her mother, Joyce; her brothers, Robert and Arthur; and the countless other children, old and young, whom she took under her beautiful wing over the years.”
The statement continued, “It’s a sad day for us, but a joyous one, too, knowing how many people today are summoning her memory and smiling.”
HOLLYWOOD, CA – OCTOBER 17: Actress Arleen Sorkin attends LES GIRLS 11th Annual Cabaret at Avalon on October 17, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Joe Kohen/WireImage)
| Credit: Joe Kohen/WireImage
Sorkin is best known for voicing the original iteration of Harley Quinn, a DC villain created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm who was supposed to appear in just one episode when she made her debut on Batman: The Animated Series. The 1992 episode “Joker’s Favor” introduced her as a wise-cracking henchwomen to the Joker, but she was such a hit that Sorkin returned for eight more episodes before reprising the role in video games, movies, and several other animated series, including Gotham Girls, Justice League, The New Batman Adventures, Static Shock, and Superman: The Animated Series.
DC co-head James Gunn was among those who paid tribute to the Sorkin, sharing photos of her and Harley on his Instagram with the caption, “Rest in Peace, Arleen Sorkin, the incredibly talented original voice of Harley Quinn, who helped to create the character so many of us love. Love to her family and friends.”
Mark Hamill, who played the Joker opposite Sorkin’s Harley Quinn, also shared a touching tribute on social media. “Devastated to learn we’ve lost the brilliant Arleen Sorkin,” he wrote. “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.”
Tara Strong, the prolific voice actress who has also played Harley Quinn, shared a photo of Sorkin and wrote, “Without this gorgeous, talented goddess, #HarleyQuinn would have never existed. She was the inspiration & the heart & soul of this iconic character.”
Born on Oct. 14, 1955, Sorkin entered show business as a member of a comedy troupe and cabaret performer in the 1970s. Her television debut was as a background actor in a 1982 episode of Saturday Night Live, followed by her 1984 breakthrough performance as the beloved character Calliope Jones Bradford on Days of Our Lives. Sorkin remained on the show until 1990, earning two Daytime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress and later reprising the role in 1992, 2006, and 2010. Her other TV credits include Duet, Open House, Frasier, and a brief stint hosting America’s Funniest Home Videos, which ended with Sorkin filing a lawsuit after she was dismissed from the show.
Her debut as Harley Quinn came shortly after she rose to fame on Days of Our Lives. The character was crafted with Sorkin in mind, with Dini incorporating her Jewish identity and Brooklyn accent.
HARLEY QUINN, from left: Harley Quinn (voice: Kaley Cuoco), Joker (voice: Alan Tudyk), ‘Batman Begins Forever’, (Season 3, ep. 308, aired Sept. 1, 2022). photo: ©HBO / Courtesy Everett Collection
Harley Quinn, voiced by Arleen Sorkin, on ‘Batman Begins Forever’
| Credit: HBO / Courtesy Everett Collection
In a 2017 retrospective piece, Dini recalled how the character was inspired by Sorkin, who was his old college friend. “She is a very funny talent, kind of a live wire,” Dini told EW. “She can do that snappy blonde Judy Holliday persona very easily, and that was part of her performance style when I came up with the character.”
He continued, “With Harley, thinking about that character, I was like, ‘Gosh, she sounds like Arleen.’ Around that time [Sorkin] had appeared as a wacky jester on Days of Our Lives in a costume series. She was wearing this Pied Piper outfit, and I was like, ‘Well, there she is. She should run around with the Joker dressed like that.'”
Sorkin is survived by her husband, Christopher Lloyd, and their two sons, Eli and Owen Lloyd.