Troy Kotsur: First Deaf Man to Win Best Supporting Actor

Evie Sorg '24, Staff

Though, given the circumstances there was a clear headliner at this year’s Oscars one mustn’t fail to recognize the other overwhelming achievements that happened that day. For the first time in Oscar history, the award for Best Supporting Actor went to a deaf gentleman by the name of Troy Kotsur. Kotsur won the award for his role in the film CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adult. The film was also this year’s best picture winner. Kotsur started his career in theater, specifically the traveling company of the National Theatre of the Deaf as well as also performing in the Deaf West Theatre, a non-profit arts organization based in Los Angeles, California. However, Kotsur’s acting resume speaks for itself, with guest appearances on shows like Criminal Minds to developing a whole alien hand language in Star Wars’ The Mandalorian, it only makes sense that Kotsur would eventually get the recognition that he deserved.

As well as being the first deaf Oscar winner in his category Kotsur became the second deaf performer to win overall. The first was none other than his CODA costar and on-screen wife Marlee Matlin, who won Best Actress 35 years ago for her role in the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God. Kotsur’s signature charm was present as he gave his speech while accepting his award, signing, “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…” Kotsur then also mentioned his trip to the White House where he wanted to teach President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden some “dirty sign language” but Matlin told him “to behave.” Kotsur then shared the story of his greatest inspiration, his father, signing , “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 wasn’t able to sign… Dad, I learned so much from you, and I’ll always love you. You are my hero.” Kotsur concluded by dedicating the award to CODA and the deaf and disabled communities ending with the words “This is our moment.” Following the memorable speech, the hall of the Dolby Theatre was filled with silence as actors, actresses, directors, and producers alike raised their hands in the air and shook them with silent signed applause.