Deaf actor Troy Kotsur made history this morning during the 94th Academy Award nominations.
The “CODA” actor became the first Deaf male actor in the entire history of the Oscars to be nominated for an Academy Award. He is the second Deaf actor to be nominated in the award show’s history: “Children of a Lesser God” actress Marlee Matlin was nominated – and won – for her role in 1986.
Kotsur is also nominated for a SAG award, a BAFTA, and a Film Independent Spirit Award for his role. He will be competing for his Oscar against Ciaran Hinds from “Belfast,” Jesse Plemons from “The Power of the Dog,” J.K. Simmons from “Being the Ricardos,” and Kodi Smit-McPhee from “The Power of the Dog.”
The nomination of “CODA,” which is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adult, for Best Picture is a milestone for the Deaf community and highlights the importance of telling Deaf stories in Hollywood. The 2021 comedy-drama also earned a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Kotsur sat down with Deadline to talk about the historic moment shortly after the announcement on Tuesday morning.
Kotsur Was ‘Extremely Thrilled’ By His Historic Nomination
During the interview, Kotsur spoke through an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter. The excitement on his face was clear when he said he was “extremely thrilled” by his nomination.
“I feel like it’s wonderful to be able to share this experience with the Deaf community and with the hearing community,” he said. “It’s so exciting and such a blessing.”
“I just felt so touched that so many Deaf people all over the community are so excited and they’re all celebrating,” he added.
Director and writer Sian Heder added, “I think to see someone like Troy, who has worked in the theater for 30 years and struggled and persevered and been so committed to his craft, even though the odds are so stacked against him…to see him have this moment is just so joyful.”
Kotsur also talked about the importance of having an entire Deaf ensemble, instead of just one actor as a supporting character, which is often the case in Hollywood films.
‘The Awareness of ASL and Deaf Culture Is Such A Positive’
“It’s so important for the group of people in our ensemble who just happen to also be deaf,” he continued. “It tends to just be one deaf role in a film, like many of Marlee’s roles in the past, and so I hope that Hollywood is beginning to be more open-minded and gives more diverse artists an opportunity to tell their stories.”
“The awareness of ASL and Deaf culture is such a positive,” he added.
He pointed to the importance of films like “A Quiet Place” and Deaf actress Lauren Ridloff’s breakthrough role in Marvel’s “Eternals” films as signs that things are shifting in a positive direction for Deaf performers. Kotsur said that he can “feel the positivity out there” right now for Deaf storytellers.
“It’s exciting to see because everyone has their stories to tell,” he continued. “We have such a rich storytelling tradition in the Deaf community, and I hope that folks are motivated to be creative together.”
“It doesn’t matter if we’re Deaf or hearing; we’re just people,” he added.
What Is Next For Troy Kotsur After ‘CODA’?
Although his role in “CODA” is over, Kotsur is gearing up for his next role in “Flash Before the Bang.” The film tells an underdog story of an all-deaf track team at the Oregon School for the Deaf, who won the state championship in 1986 despite facing stiff competition from hearing schools. Kotsur will play the team’s coach, Coach Farrior.
“I’m thrilled that both the producer and the director are Deaf, and we’re working with a Deaf and hearing cast and crew,” Kotsur said of the project. “It’s a new challenge and I’m really looking forward to it.”
In the future, Kotsur said that he hopes that Hollywood is finally ready for a Deaf director because that’s what he wants to pursue next!
“As an actor…I don’t want to feel that I’m limiting myself,” he explained. “I want to be able to wear different hats and have different responsibilities.”
“I would love to be a director, a teacher, an actor, and it’s really important to do what I can and have options, depending on what’s available out there, rather than limiting myself,” he added.