Troy Kotsur became the first deaf male actor to win a competitive Oscar, winning Best Supporting Actor for his work on “CODA.”
Kotsur is preceded only by Marlee Matlin, his “CODA” co-star and on-screen wife, as the only other deaf person to win an Oscar. She won Best Actress for her work in “Children of a Lesser God” in 1986.
“It’s amazing to be here on this journey,” Kotsur said through an interpreter as last year’s Best Supporting Actress winner Yuh-Jung Youn held her Oscar to be able to sign his speech. “I really want to thank all the wonderful deaf theater scenes where I was allowed to develop my acting craft.”
He added: “This is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community, the disabled community. It’s our time.
Kotsur plays Frank Rossi in “CODA,” a deaf fisherman from Gloucester, Massachusetts, with two children, one of whom is deaf (Daniel Durant) and the other a hearing daughter (Emilia Jones) who wishes to pursue an education as a singer as part of his school choir. Kotsur has been acclaimed since the film’s debut at Sundance in 2021 not only for his tender performance, but also for the character’s hilariously vulgar sensibility.
In an interview with TheWrap following his nomination, Kotsur explained that despite being from Arizona and never setting foot on a fishing boat, in addition to being barely as profane as his character usually is, the personality that goes into Frank Rossi is all his own.
If someone else created the signs, it would be their personality, not mine, he said. So it was important to have that organic choice, to have that instinctive feeling and the essence of the character. ASL often tops English in many ways because it’s more detailed, more visual than you can even imagine, especially with the vulgarity.
Although the deaf community doesn’t consider him a disability, the only other disabled performer to win an Oscar was Harold Russell, also in the Best Supporting Actor race for ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ from 1946. Russell lost his hands in World War II and received two hooks to serve in their place. In William Wyler’s film, Russell portrays a veteran like himself adjusting to post-war life.
Next up for Kotsur is a project called “Flash Before the Bang” in which he will play the coach of a high school team of deaf track stars. While the film had been in development for some time, Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Films and Matt Damon joined the project as producers in August. Kotsur will star in the film alongside real-life wife Deanne Bray and “Deaf U” host Nyle DiMarco.
Kotsur began acting as part of the Deaf West Theater, which combines deaf and hearing performances on stage, and he recently had the chance to appear in an episode of “The Mandalorian.”
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