Troy Kotsur’s Oscar-nominated performance as CODA has only one spoken line. But it is a great one. Emilia Jones plays his daughter and he urges her to follow her dreams of attending college and singing.
That one line required a lot of preparation and courage. Kotsur had done it before. He had done it before. Years ago, he was Stanley Kowalski in a Deaf West Theatreproduction “A Streetcar Named Desire” and he exclaimed, “Stella!” night upon night.
Kotsur says, “Sometimes I’ll question hearing audience members what their voice sounds like,” It was described by one person as being snug and snuggled in bed.
Kotsur is the second deaf actor to be nominated in Academy Award. Kotsur, 53 years old, hopes that his achievement will inspire others like the “Go!”
Kotsur states, “I want young people who are deaf or hard-of hearing to feel more confident and inspired that they can achieve their dreams.” “I don’t want them to feel restricted.”
Sian Heder’s best picture nominee for “CODA”, an Apple TV+ movie, has brought Kotsur up to Hollywood’s most prestigious stages and made history for the deaf community. He is the first individual deaf actor to be nominated for , a Screen Actors Guild award. It has been confusing to see the flurry of praises. He was so excited when he was nominated for a BAFTA that he nearly fell from his chair . He accepted the Gotham Award for the best supporting performance and told the crowd that although he was not speechless, he felt “absolutely handless” right now.
Kotsur describes the acclaim as “just overwhelming”. “It’s awesome. It’s like I can live happily, always smiling.
Marlee Matlin, Kotsur’s co-star in “CODA,” was the only person to experience something like it. They play the parents of a Gloucester fishing family that is deaf and has a hearing daughter. Kotsur recollects seeing Matlin win the Oscar in 1987 for “Children of a Lesser God.”
Kotsur recalled that he felt like a deaf actor could hope, in an interview with Zoom, which Kotsur conducted through an interpreter. “Of course I didn’t know how difficult it would be to go through showbusiness.
He believes that Kotsur’s long journey to the Oscars began in elementary school. Kotsur, who had little access to TV programming, loved animated cartoons such as “Tom and Jerry”. He would then retell these stories to his deaf classmates while on the bus. His father, a police chief would fondly refer to Kotsur as a “risk-taker” because he pursued performing. Gallaudet University taught him acting and he then went on tour with the National Theatre of the Deaf.
Kotsur discovered freedom on the stage after there were very few opportunities for deaf actors in film and television. Kotsur began his acting career in 1994 with “Of Mice and Men”. He has since acted in more than 20 productions at Deaf West in Los Angeles, a non-profit theater company that was founded in 1991. He met Deanne Bray, his wife, in one show. He starred as Cyrano de Bergerac in “American Buffalo”
DJ Kurs, Director of Deaf West, recalls being first “utterly drawn into by Kotsur’s magnetism” in “Streetcar.” He’s witnessed Kotsur’s immersive process many times since.
Kurs wrote by email that working with him during rehearsal was like being in the company of mad scientists. He is always tweaking and fine-tuning, adding different elements to the character. The process continues until the moment that the curtain is raised on opening night.
Kotsur worked hard to perfect his acting on stage. Kotsur says, “It is really important for me to show emotion through signing language.” Sign language can sometimes be more meaningful and three-dimensional than spoken dialogue.
Heder saw Kotsur for the first time in two Deaf West plays, “At Home in the Zoo” and “Our Town”.
She said, “And they were very distinct characters.” He is charismatic and charismatic, especially when he’s on stage. He has an amazing presence and is so funny.
Kotsur was used to seeing victimized deaf characters that were one-dimensional. But “CODA” gave him something new. Although the Rossis of CODA may need to work harder, they are a family just like any other with funny dinner-table conversations and casual bickering. Kotsur’s Frank can be a bit naughty and randy. One scene where he instructs his daughter about safe sex is when he mimics a soldier putting on helmets.
Kotsur, who is used to hearing actors curse, enjoyed Frank’s vulgarity. He proudly recalls the back-and-forth scenes with the MPAA after the film “CODA” almost received an R-rating. Kotsur says Frank is like a true deaf person. He’s a hardworking, deaf person who just gets through.
“I want to give the audience a new perspective. Kotsur says that she wants people to forget their preconceived ideas about deaf people. “There are deaf physicians. There are also deaf lawyers. There are also deaf firefighters. Many hearing people don’t realize this.
Kotsur’s most touching scene is the moment he shares with Ruby in his truck bed. He is unable to understand Ruby’s singing talent and listens by feeling the vibrations in her neck. This scene is echoed in Kotsur’s own life. Bray’s 17 year-old daughter, a CODA (child deaf adult), has a deep love for music.
“When my daughter plays music, she doesn’t realize that I’m standing beside her.” Kotsur says, “I’ll walk up to the acoustic guitar body and feel the vibrations.” I can do the exact same thing with the piano. When she is practicing, I can lay down on the grand piano with my arms extended and feel the vibrating sound.
He adds, “I needed to go to the store and I was like ‘What’s the difference between an acoustic and electric guitar?’ So I decided that I would buy both and gift it to my daughter.” I love watching her become so passionate about music. She has a passion for music that I cannot take away. She just needs to be encouraged.”
Kotsur took the script for “CODA” as a warning sign when he read it for the first time. He, like his character is not yet ready to let go of his daughter. Frank has struggled to let go of these personal connections.
Kotsur says that it took him about half a decade to disconnect Frank. “My wife asked me, “Troy, would you please shave your beard?” I can’t even kiss you.'”
Kurs considers Kotsur nothing less than a trailblazer. Matlin and him, he said, will make it easier for deaf actors to get work.
Kurs says, “Seeing the acclaim validates the fact that Troy is one the greats.” “We have waited for the world’s recognition for a while now. It is our hope that Troy will receive all the praises and work that he deserves, and that future deaf actors won’t have to wait so much to be recognized at this level.”
Kotsur, now a more trim Kotsur, has gone on to appear as a Tusken Raider in Disney+’s “The Mandalorian”. He also developed his own sign language. There are other parts that await him, along with a lecture tour to teach deaf children and actors in the future. He’s enjoying it as much as he can.
He says, “I’m trying not to rush and enjoy every day.” “I am not in a hurry. I am not obsessed with winning. These days are gone. They will never come back to me.”
Kotsur holds his chin high and compares himself with just one hair among a beard full of talented deaf actors who didn’t get the chance to do so.
“I feel so fortunate to have been able take this step forward. Kotsur says that Hollywood needs to be more open-minded and creative. “Everyone has a story to tell.”