Troy Kotsur: 5 Things To Know About ‘CODA’ Actor & Oscar Winner

Troy Kotsur is the first-ever deaf actor to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards. Here's everything you need to know about the Oscar-winning actor.

Tony Kotsur
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Image Credit: James Veysey/Shutterstock for BAFTA

Troy Kotsur is a big name this Oscars season. Not only was he the frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor award but the first deaf actor to ever be nominated in the category. He made history when he won the Oscar on March 27th! But the award wouldn’t be just for the monumental factor of it. He gave an outstanding performance as gruff fisherman father Frank Rossi. Here’s everything you need to know about the Oscar Award-winning actor.

1. Troy was born deaf

Tony Kotsur
Troy Kotsur is an award-winning actor. (James Veysey/Shutterstock for BAFTA)

CODA is a brilliant example of authentic, representative casting. Troy, who plays deaf father Frank Rossi, actually was born deaf. He attended the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf and Westwood High School as a kid. It was there that he discovered his passion for acting, performing in a pantomime play. The actor recently spoke on some of the unique experiences he has had as a deaf person, like something as simple as profanity, and how he saw the script flipped for the first time in CODA.

“When I was growing up, I saw the hearing world’s vulgarities with all of its dirty language printed in film sub­titles,” he explained to Screen Daily through an interpreter. “So when I read the script for CODA, I was extremely excited to finally see vulgar sign language. Now it’s the other way round — we’re showing what our language, our culture and our vulgarities look like. My only question was, ‘Are hearing people ready to see that on screen?’”

2. Troy is also a stage actor

Most of Tony’s credits are from the stage, which he explained has attributed to his financial struggles leading up to his big break on the big screen. He left Gallaudet University, where he was studying theater, television and film, to join the Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles where he starred in Cyrano, Of Mice and Men, A Streetcar Named Desire and most notably, Spring Awakening. He then went on to star in the Broadway ASL production of Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It’s clear he had plenty of success on the stage and was ready to translate that to the screen.

3. Troy made history at the SAG Awards

Tony Kostur
Troy Kotsur on the red carpet. (Thomas Alexander/Shutterstock for BAFTA)

Troy made history at the first award show of the season, the SAG Awards, by being the first deaf actor to win an award at this show. He also made history as the first deaf male actor to be nominated for an Oscar and might be the first to win. The SAG Awards ended up being the first of possibly many first for Tony and he was sure to express his gratitude during his acceptance speech.

“Wow. Thank you so much to all the members of SAG. I am so proud to be a member. I’ve been a member since 2001, and so now I feel like I’m finally part of the family,” Kotsur said via an ASL interpreter in his acceptance speech. “I know you all are artists, and I know you all know what it’s like to be a starving actor. Back then, I used to sleep in my car. I slept in my dressing room backstage, I couch-surfed and all of that, you feel me, right? So, thank you so much. I’m so grateful to SAG [for protecting] us actors.”

4. Troy created a new language

Not many people can say they invented a new language but it’s a point of pride for Troy. The actor was cast as a Tusken in The Mandalorian. Most of the Star Wars universe is made up lore so he decided it would be best to create a new version of sign language for his character. “I did research on the culture and environment of Tusken Raiders … My goal was to avoid ASL. I made sure it became Tusken Sign Language based on their culture and environment,” Kotsur told The Daily Moth. His role was also monumental because he was the first deaf actor to join the Star Wars franchise.

5. Troy is the only deaf member of his family

Just like how Ruby is the only non-deaf member of her family in CODA, Troy was the only deaf person in his family. His father was a police chief in Arizona and both he and his mother are not deaf. In fact, he has three brothers who are all hearing except for him. He revealed that his parents were very committed to helping him and learned ASL for him, as he told The Hollywood Reporter.

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