Troy Kotsur can make room on his already crowded mantle for a historic trophy.
The first deaf male actor nominated for an Oscar won best supporting honors for his role in “CODA” at the Academy Awards on Sunday.
Kotsur joins “CODA” costar Marlee Matlin as the only deaf Oscar winners. Matlin remains the youngest best actress winner at age 21 for the 1986 drama “Children of a Lesser God.”
The star-studded audience rose to its feet for Kotsur, a heavy favorite going in after already winning trophies from the British Academy Film Awards, SAG, Critics’ Choice and Independent Spirit.
Javier Bardem, Jessica Chastain, Nicole Kidman and others brought up their hands and waved them about — what’s known as a deaf clap. In the crowded lobby bar of the Dolby Theatre, things came to a stop and people did the deaf clap as well.
Presenter Youn Yuh-jung, last year’s supporting actress winner, signed Kotsur’s name before announcing it. She handed the Oscar to Kotsur, then quickly grabbed it back, freeing his hands to make his comments in American Sign Language. An interpreter joined them on stage and choked up while delivering Kotsur’s remarks.
“This is amazing to be here on this journey,” Kotsur signed. “I cannot believe I’m here.”
In “CODA,” which stands for child of deaf adult, Kostur plays Frank, whose daughter, Ruby, struggles with being the only member of her family that isn’t deaf and the responsibility she feels for them.
“ASL saved my life because it helped me understand how to read English and math and science and theater and scripts,” Kotsur signed backstage. “Sign language is so rich.”
Kotsur’s televised speeches at the other shows where he won were a highlight each time, and he didn’t disappoint in his moment of a lifetime.
“I just wanted to say this is dedicated to the Deaf community, the CODA community and the disabled community,” Kotsur signed. “This is our moment.”
The 53-year-old actor from Mesa, Arizona, has toiled in the industry for over 30 years. He had expressed gratitude for the recognition “CODA” brought him after enduring years of financial struggles. Kotsur’s career has received a welcomed boost as a result of the accolades.
“This is just the beginning for me. This is a new chapter,” Kotsur said. “My question is, is Hollywood ready for a new step forward?”
Kotsur’s wife, actress Deanne Bray, is deaf. He kissed her before heading to the stage to claim his historic victory.
“She made so many sacrifices to support our family,” Kotsur signed backstage.
On stage, Kotsur mentioned the “CODA” cast’s recent visit to the White House, where they met President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden.
“I was planning on teaching them some dirty sign language, but Marlee Matlin told me to behave myself,” he said, joking. “So don’t worry, Marlee, I won’t drop any F-bombs in my speech today. Instead, I want to thank all the wonderful deaf theater stages where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor.”
Much of Kotsur’s career has been spent on the stage. He’s appeared in productions for the National Theatre of the Deaf and Deaf West Theatre in Los Angeles.
His television credits include “The Mandalorian,” “CSI: NY,” “Scrubs” and “Criminal Minds.”
Kotsur won the Oscar over Ciarán Hinds of “Belfast,” Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee of “The Power of the Dog,” and J.K. Simmons of “Being the Ricardos.”
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