Troy Kotsur Becomes First Deaf Man to Win an Acting Oscar

Until tonight, Kotsur’s “CODA” co-star, Marlee Matlin, was the only deaf person to win an acting Oscar. She received her gold-plated best actress statuette in 1987 for “Children of a Lesser God.”

Seeing her in that film, when he was 17 and growing up in Arizona the son of a police officer, is what gave Kotsur the confidence to pursue a career in acting, he has said interviews. His career has not been easy. Kotsur has flourished on the stage, but his pre-“CODA” television and film credits have been slight, with a guest role in a TV series here and an indie film there. (Fun fact: He helped create the sign language that Tusken Raiders use in “The Mandalorian.”)

This is amazing to be here on this journey. I cannot believe I’m here. Thank you so much to all the members of the Academy for recognizing my work. It’s really amazing that our film “CODA” has reached out worldwide; it even reached all the way to the White House. And they invited the cast of “CODA” to visit and have a tour of the White House. We met our president, Joe, and Dr. Jill, and I was planning on teaching them some dirty sign language, but Marlee Matlin told me to behave myself. So don’t worry, Marlee; I won’t drop any F-bombs in my speech today. Instead, I really want to thank all of the wonderful Deaf theater stages where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor. Thank you.

I read one of [Steven] Spielberg’s books recently, and he said that the best director, the definition of the best director was a skilled communicator. Sian Heder, you are the best communicator. And the reason why is you brought the Deaf world and the hearing world together, and you are our bridge. And your name will forever be on that bridge, Sian Heder Bridge, here in Hollywood. And that was supported by Apple, Sundance, all of our cast, our crew, our producers and the community of Gloucester, Mass. So I just want to say: Hey, fishermen! Hey, Popeyes! Don’t forget to eat your spinach.

My dad, he was the best signer in our family. But he was in a car accident, and he became paralyzed from the neck down, and he no longer was able to sign. Dad, I learned so much from you. I’ll always love you. You are my hero. Thank you to my biggest fans, my wife and my daughter, Kyra, and my hometown of Mesa, Ariz., and Mark Finley, my manager, and our team.

I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the Deaf community, the CODA community and the disabled community. This is our moment. To my mom, my dad and my brother Mark, they’re not here today. But look at me now. I did it. I love you. Thank you.

Nancy Coleman contributed reporting.

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