Arleen Sorkin, who voiced and inspired Harley Quinn in 'Batman: the Animated Series'.

Arleen Sorkin, the Voice and Inspiration for Harley Quinn, Passed Away at 67

Actor and writer Arleen Sorkin tragically passed away at the age of 67. As of now, there is no official family statement. She played the prominent role of Calliope Jones on the long-running soap opera Days of Our Lives, but she was best known as the voice and inspiration of the iconic antagonist Harley Quinn on Batman: The Animated Series.

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Sorkin played Geneva on the show Duet and had several writing credits to her name. She wrote for the show Tiny Toon Adventures, co-wrote the 1997 film Picture Perfect, and was a co-host on America’s Funniest People.

Of course, her most famous role was Harley Quinn, a role she not only originated but went on to voice in television and video games. It’s impossible to overstate this: There would be no Harley Quinn without Sorkin. Many people might not know this, but Quinn actually wasn’t in the Batman universe at all until Batman: The Animated Series. Her character was created entirely for the show by writer and producer Paul Dini, and Sorkin was the main inspiration behind it.

The femme fatale jester first appeared in Episode 22, “Joker’s Favor” of the animated series. According to Geek Tyrant, Dini came up with the idea after seeing an episode of Days of Our Lives featuring Sorkin’s character Calliope Jones. Sorkin and Dini were close friends at the time, so she gave him a VHS compilation of her best scenes on the show, one of which included her in clown makeup and costume.

See, Dini wrote a henchwoman part for the Joker, but he was stuck on ideas for where to go, so he looked to Arleen’s performance for inspiration. “I had already decided to give the Joker a henchwoman in the script and thought Arleen’s screwball persona would be a good contrast to the Joker’s dangerous insanity,” he told Vulture in an interview. “I also liked the idea of putting Harley in some sort of colorful costume, harkening back to the molls of the 1960s live-action Batman series. Seeing Arleen in the jester costume around that time just helped fix that image in my brain.”

Eventually, Bruce Timm, the creator of BtAS, and Dini got to work hashing out the finer details of Quinn’s character, along with her iconic design which Timm drew. Arleen was chosen to voice the role, and the rest is history. What was supposed to be a one-off character has since exploded into one of the most beloved comic villains ever, and it’s all thanks to Arleen. From her accent to her Jewishness to her real name (Harleen Quinzel), Sorkin informed so much of who Harley Quinn became.

Since Arleen’s passing, many folks on social media have come out to express their sympathies.

(featured image: Angela Weiss/Getty Images/Warner Bros. Animation)


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Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson (he/they) writes about media criticism, race studies, intersectional feminism, and left-wing politics. He has been working with digital media and writing about pop culture since 2014. He enjoys video games, movies, and TV, and often gets into playful arguments with friends over Shonen anime and RPGs. He has experience writing for The Mary Sue, Cracked.com, Bunny Ears, Static Media, and The Crimson White. His Twitter can be found here: https://twitter.com/8bitStereo