Arleen Sorkin, the veteran voice actress who first voiced Harley Quinn in 1992's Batman: The Animated Series, passed away recently at age 67.
Born October 55, 1955, Arleen Sorkin first voiced the Joker's number one henchwoman and on-again/off-again partner in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Favor". Since then, her Harley Quinn portrayal and chemistry with the Joker (played by Mark Hamill) has been the gold standard by which other actresses are measured, both in voice roles and live-action depictions. And as it turns out, she was the visual inspiration of the character as well.
Fans and colleagues paid tribute to the late Arleen Sorkin on social media after the news of her passing was confirmed.
Fellow voice talent Neil Kaplan broke the sad news in a post on his official X (formerly Twitter) account.
It broke my heart to hear… the original voice of Harley Quinn, Arlene Sorkin has passed away.
I adored her work as HQ & as Calliope in “Days of Our Lives.” pic.twitter.com/QtypvmvNUX
— Neil Kaplan - Voice Actor (@NeKap) August 26, 2023
DC Studios Co-CEO James Gunn confirmed the untimely passing of Arleen Sorkin on his own Instagram feed.
Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker throughout the Batman: The Animated Series run with Sorkin's Harley, praised her performance and legacy in giving life to the popular DC Universe character. Hamill also paid tribute to their long friendship.
Devastated to learn we've lost the brilliant Arleen Sorkin. 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. 💔 pic.twitter.com/g1Mb3BWoKn
— Mark Hamill (@MarkHamill) August 27, 2023
Prior to her role as Harley Quinn, Sorkin was better known as Calliope Jones Bradford in the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives. Sorkin also worked on multiple television and film projects, as an actress, writer, and producer including Trading Places, Duet, America's Funniest People, Picture Perfect, Tiny Toon Adventures, and How to Marry a Billionaire.
Interestingly, Sorkin wasn't just the voice of Harley Quinn, but also the visual inspiration. Paul Dini was an old college buddy of Sorkin's. Apparently, Dini watched a video of Sorkin during her time on the Days of Our Lives series. In an apparent dream sequence, Sorkin appears as a court jester, a literal harlequin. The video clip of that episode can be found here.
As it happened at the time, Dini was working with Bruce Timm in developing the Batman: The Animated Series. Sorkin became the visual model for the Harley Quinn character, who was not in the DC Comics and was intended for a single appearance. Arleen Sorkin was eventually cast for the voice and the character of Harley Quinn proved to be quite popular, thus making her the regular sidekick to the Joker.
Other than the recurring DC Animated roles as Harley Quinn, Sorkin continued to voice Joker's main squeeze in other media, particularly in video games. These include Batman: Vengeance (2001), Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009), and DC Universe Online (2011). She would retire by the end of 2011 and Tara Strong (who previously voiced Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in Batman: The Animated series) would take on the role of providing the voice for the character. Strong would begin voicing Harley in Rocksteady's video game sequel Batman: Arkham City and in other games such as Injustice: Gods Among Us.
Without this gorgeous, talented goddess, #HarleyQuinn would have never existed. She was the inspiration & the heart & soul of this iconic character. I was in awe as #Batgirl watching her alongside @MarkHamill & Kevin. Sending love to her family #RipArleenSorkin ❤️🖤 🦇 pic.twitter.com/8zQdHsyOyM
— tara strong (@tarastrong) August 26, 2023
Aside from Tara Strong, Harley Quinn has also been voiced by Melissa Rauch (2017's Batman & Harley Quinn) and Kaley Cuoco (2019). In live action, the first actress to play a version of Harley Quinn was Mia Sara in the short-lived Birds of Prey TV Series (2002). In the later DC Extended Universe films, Margot Robbie took on the role in Suicide Squad (2016), Birds of Prey (2020), and The Suicide Squad (2021). And Lady Gaga will soon appear as a radically different take on the role in the upcoming Joker: Folie à Deux, opposite Joaquin Phoenix's Joker.
The news comes nearly a year after iconic Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy himself passed on. While they had worked together on multiple Batman projects, fans will remember a particular episode that highlighted Harley being on her own without her beloved "Puddin'".
"Harley's Holiday" was the sixth episode of Batman: The Animated Series season 3. Fans of the character consider this the pivotal moment of Harley Quinn's evolution, as it presented a sympathetic side to her backstory.
Arleen Sorkin is survived by her husband and their two children. Fans can still catch Sorkin's portrayal as Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series currently available on the Max (formerly HBO Max) streaming service.