The Original Harley Quinn Has Passed Away

in DC, Movies & TV

Harley Quinn in her classic Batman the Animated Series jester costume singing in a spotlight

Credit: Warner Bros.

Actor Arlene Sorkin, known for her performances as Calliope Jones in Days of our Lives (1965-present) and Harley Quinn in multiple Batman projects, has sadly passed away at 67 years old of lung cancer. She is survived by her husband, producer Christopher Lloyd, and her two sons, Eli and Owen.

Harley Quinn smiling and holding her costume, Arleen Sorkin smiling on a red carpet in a white jacket
Credit: Warner Bros., Kathy Hutchins via Wikimedia Commons

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Born in Washington, D.C., in 1955, Arleen Sorkin began her career performing in cabaret shows throughout the 70s and 80s. Soon, she would earn her big break performing as Calliope Jones on the popular soap opera Days of Our Lives, earning two Daytime Emmy nominations for Best Supporting Actress. She played the part from 1984-1990.

She also appeared as Geneva in the show Duet (1987-1989) and served as the female co-host of America’s Funniest People (1990-1994) from 1990-1992. Throughout the years, she would reprise her role as Calliope Jones in Days of Our Lives, most recently appearing as the character in 2010.

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Arleen Sorkin was also a talented comedic writer, having written the film Picture Perfect (1997) and wrote for the animated series Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1992). However, Sorkin was probably most well-known for originating one of the most iconic villains to come out of Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1999): Harley Quinn.

Arleen Sorkin Literally Was Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn in her signature jester costume leaning on a car and pointing in Batman the Animated Series
Credit: Warner Bros.

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Arleen Sorkin is most recognized as the original voice of Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series. However, her connection to Ms. Quinzel goes so much deeper than that.

In an interview with Vulture, Paul Dini, a writer for the series and the official creator of Harley Quinn, revealed that the character was based entirely on Sorkin. The two had been close friends since college, and one day, while he was sick, Dini popped in a VHS tape containing footage of an episode of Days of Our Lives. It just so happened to feature Sorkin performing as a court jester in a medieval setting.

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This turned out to be fate because Dini was trying to figure out a new thug to appear on the crew of Batman’s arch-nemesis, the Joker (Mark Hamill). “I thought, Maybe there should be a girl there,” he said. “And I thought, Should the girl be like a tough street thug? Or like a bench person or something? And then suddenly, the idea of someone funny kind of struck me.”

Seeing his friend acting like a clown was the final piece needed to create the character. Paul Dini not only based the costume on the one seen in the episode, but he also based her appearance and personality on his longtime friend. Naturally, he felt that only one person could possibly play the character: Arleen Sorkin herself.

Harley Quinn holding a bat and evilly smiling animated, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn licking her lips and holding a hammer
Credit: Warner Bros., DC Studios

And play her she did! What was meant to be a one-off character turned into one of the most popular villains in Batman’s rogues gallery. Sorkin would go on to play Harley Quinn in multiple projects, including Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), The New Batman Adventures (1997-1999), Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000), Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000), Gotham Girls (2000-2002), Static Shock (2000-2004), Justice League (2001-2004), Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009), and, finally, DC Universe Online (2011).

Since then, Harley Quinn has gained a life of her own, having starred in multiple films like Suicide Squad (2016), Birds of Prey (2020), and The Suicide Squad (2021). She is also the focus of her own animated series, appropriately titled Harley Quinn (2019-present). She will soon be played by Lady Gaga in Joker: Folie à Deux (2024)

Harley Quinn sad while being taken away by Batman and Robin
Credit: Warner Bros.

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Harley Quinn has been played by multiple talented actors, with iconic performances from Margot Robbie, Tara Strong, and Kaley Cuoco. However, there will only be one woman who actually was Dr. Harleen Quinzel. And that’s Arleen Sorkin. Thanks for everything.

What’s your favorite Harley Quinn moment? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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