CODA’s Troy Kotsur is the first Deaf man to win an Oscar for acting
March 28, 2022 08:11 am
Troy Kotsur is now the first man who is Deaf to win an Academy Award for acting, collecting the trophy for best actor in a supporting role. His CODA costar, Marlee Matlin, was the first Deaf actor to win an Oscar back in 1987, receiving the best actress award for Children of a Lesser God.
Minari star Youn Yuh-jung presented the award and signed her congratulations.
“This is dedicated to the Deaf community, the CODA community and the disabled community,” Kotsur signed in his acceptance speech. “This is our moment.”
In the film, Kotsur plays Frank Rossi, a fisherman in Gloucester, Mass., and the patriarch of a family whose wife and son are also Deaf. His character struggles to understand his hearing daughter’s dreams of being a singer.
Kotsur’s winning performance in the film includes a scene in which he asks his daughter to sing while he touches her throat, so he can hear the vibrations of her voice. He also improvised hilarious and graphic American Sign Language gestures while talking to his embarrassed teen daughter and her friend about safe sex.
Before the Oscars, Kotsur’s performance in CODA racked up top acting awards with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Screen Actors Guild, Film Independent Spirit and Critics Choice movie awards.
Kotsur had already been a pioneering star of stage and screen, honing his craft despite the structural limitations of an industry that didn’t always recognize his gifts. “If Troy were a person who could speak and hear, if he were a hearing person, his star would have risen many, many years ago,” fellow actor David Kurs told NPR.
Kotsur was born deaf in 1968, and grew up in Mesa, Ariz. He studied acting at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., then toured with The National Theatre of the Deaf.
On Broadway, he performed in the Tony Award-winning play Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In Los Angeles, he performed with Deaf West Theater, where he was the lead in productions including Cyrano, Our Town and A Streetcar Named Desire.
On television, Kotsur has appeared in shows such as Criminal Minds, CSI: NY and Scrubs. He also played a Tusken Raider in the Star Wars series The Mandalorian, where he developed a fictional sign language for the tribe of nomads on the planet Tatooine.
Kotsur told NPR that his love for acting was sparked at a young age, when he watched Star Wars: A New Hope in the 1970’s. “It was so visual, the costumes, it just blew me away,” he signed. “I watched it again and again. And it got me hoping that someday I could make a movie.”