It’s only been a week since Troy Kotsur becomes the first deaf person to receive an Oscar nomination to act, but for the 53-year-old artist, it was like the beginning of something new.
“I finally have more confidence,” Kotsur said on a video call this week, where he spoke energetically through a sign language interpreter. “And this is just the beginning for me, even at this stage, so I’m really looking forward to starting my new journey.”
Kotsur’s breakthrough role has arrived “CODA” The Apple+ movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay, along with supporting actor Kotsur’s nod for playing Frank Rossi, a deaf fisherman struggling to have a relationship with her. His teenage daughter, Ruby (Emilia Jones). Ruby is the only hearing member of her family, which includes her mother, Jackie (Marlee Matlin) and brother, Leo (Daniel Durant). Since Ruby is the child of deaf adults – the title’s CODA – her parents expect her to translate for them and communicate with the auditory world.
But Ruby is ready to leave the nest and pursue a secret singing talent at Berklee College of Music, a job that puts her at odds with Frank, who wishes his daughter would join the business. family business after graduating from high school. Their conflict culminates one of the most influential movie scenes of the year, as Frank sat in the back of a pickup truck with his daughter and put his hand on her neck as she sang a tender ballad. With that simple gesture, this stubborn but loving father understood his daughter in a whole new way.
Kotsur hopes that with “CODA,” appearing alongside other films featuring deaf characters like “Sound of Metal” and “Eternals,” Hollywood can also get a better understanding of deaf actors. Kotsur is an excellent stage actor in theatrical productions for the deaf (he often plays the lead opposite Paul Racic, a CODA that was nominated for an Oscar last year for “Sound of Metal”) and has appeared in “Criminal Minds,” “The Mandalorian,” and other TV series. But he knows that movies like “CODA,” which offers a holistic view of the deaf experience, are still few and far between.
“I really hope that Hollywood has learned to be patient, because I have been patiently trying to work with people’s hearing over the years,” Kotsur, who lives in Mesa, Ariz., told his wife and daughter. “And to watch the fear begin to fade away, which is why it’s important not to think of deaf actors from a limited perspective, because as a deaf person, I can I can drive, I can cook, I can have sex, I can do it all. of these. The only thing where there’s a barrier is the communication barrier, and that’s it. ”
These are edited excerpts from our conversation.
Now that you’ve had some time to process your Oscar nomination, what does it mean for you?
I felt like I had all this dust on my back, and with the nomination, it started to evaporate. I had to go through a lot: financial struggles and oppression, people not willing to work with a deaf actor. With all that struggles and trauma, I feel like I have cuts all over my body that have finally healed. I didn’t realize this would be such a big step – even bigger than I thought – and it’s a blessing indeed.
What kept you going when faced with those hardships and all the failed auditions?
In auditions, I usually never get the part because most of the time they ask, “Can you speak?” And of course another actor might speak better than me, because I’m completely deaf and that can be a challenge. So I really got used to that rejection, and it was really good training for me to learn to accept it and move on.
I did it the old ’90s way: I had to buy $300 envelopes and stamps and send these headshots to 300 different casting directors, and of those, I could get a audition session. And then I wouldn’t get the part from that audition! It is extremely demanding and requires a lot of sacrifice. That’s what I mean when there’s all the dust after this journey. I had to keep moving forward, just to prove it to myself.
You auditioned for “CODA” and then waited a year and a half to get called back, right?
They argued backstage with the producer about who would play Frank Rossi. Initially, they wanted to use A-listers.
Paul Racic went through the same thing with “Sound of Metal.” The producers wanted a name like Forest Whitaker or Robert Duvall, and then Paul received an Oscar nomination for it.
By the way, I also auditioned for “Sound of Metal”. I didn’t get the role, but Paul was the perfect man for it. For me, “Sound of Metal” was a step forward, and then it was my turn, and it was an incredible journey that way. I was so used to failure that I didn’t realize I was going to exceed my own expectations of what could happen.
How long have you known Marlee Matlin, who played your wife in “CODA”?
When I was 17 years old, I saw “Children are children of God” [the 1986 drama for which Matlin won the best-actress Oscar], and it was the first time I saw an authentic representation of the deaf on the big screen. I said to myself, “I hope one day I can work with her.” After many years, I was in Deaf West Theaterand it so happens that Marlee is in most of the productions that I’m in and we’ve gotten to know each other a bit over the years.
How did you meet her? Did you play it cool?
I was touched when she came to see our products. When “CODA” happened, she told me, “I always hope to work with you one day. I put your name on my list of actors. ” And so she got her wish. She’s been through a tough journey herself and it’s been a pleasure to share this experience. But really, it’s been great for all of us. people in the deaf and hard of hearing community, and especially children with hopes and dreams, because I am proof that these dreams can come true. , “Follow your dreams,” and I said, “That’s right.” And then it actually happened, so now I’m the one who needs to shut up, because they were right.
Even before “CODA” went on sale at the Sundance Film Festival for record $25 million and being nominated for all those Oscars, what does the experience of filming mean to you?
When we finished filming, I stepped off the pier and watched all the boats go by – I just wanted to thank God for everything that happened. It took me a long time to let go of Frank Rossi and even shave. I really miss him as a character and I struggled with that for about six months. My wife complained, “Troy, would you please shave? I can’t even kiss you.”
Since so many movies revolve around the father-daughter relationship, how did you feel when you first watched it with your daughter?
She was very proud, but when she saw the sex scene, she was embarrassed and covered her eyes. She asked, “Dad, what are you doing?” I said to her, “Hey, it’s important to learn about safe sex.”
What is your own relationship with your parents like? Do they support your acting preferences?
My parents thought it was only temporary, after a few years the stress started. They said, “Hey, Troy, why don’t you get your degree? Maybe you can be an engineer or a teacher”. I was stubborn and I kept going, and they were extremely nervous, but they would always see my plays, and they liked them. My parents are both deceased, but I will visit them at the cemetery if I win some award. I would show them and say, “Hey, look at me now.”
You won a supporting actor award from Gothams. What other moments stood out this awards season for you?
We were at an event at the Academy Museum and the cast was there, and Lady Gaga was performing. I was sitting there, looking at her on stage, and I was like, “You know what I’m thinking? Should I go on stage and put my hand on Lady Gaga’s throat? “And people started dying of laughter. Sure, the police will knock me down.
Have any major fashion houses contacted you to dress you for the Oscars?
People are sending me names of shops and companies that I’ve never heard of. I don’t recognize any of these brands – I know Walmart, I know Kmart. But my wife is too excited. She started asking me, “What color dress should I wear? I want to be with you.” And I was like, “I don’t know.” Women are very excited about these types of formal attire, but have you noticed that a lot of men only have a black suit and a tie?
It tends to be uniform.
I’ve seen some people curious, “What will deaf people wear?” Oh, the same thing as hearing people. Would you expect me to dress differently? Like I have to wear Christmas lights or neon lights on the whole thing, something like that? It would be too much. I have to keep it modest.
Were you an avid follower of the previous Oscars?
I will never forget that when Marlee won, I jumped for joy because finally a deaf person won. I actually never missed an Oscar growing up because I’m a movie buff. I love Steven Spielberg, and of course, he’s had plenty of nominations throughout the years. I was delighted to meet these people and say to Steven Spielberg, “Thank you for your work.” I don’t want a brown nose, I just feel like I’ve proven myself a candidate and now they see me for who I am.
You’re not brown, you’re their friend. You are an Oscar nominee.
And it doesn’t matter whether I win or not: My name is in the history books. By the time I leave this planet, that will still be.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/movies/troy-kotsur-coda-deaf-actor.html ‘CODA’ Star Troy Kotsur In His Historical, Healing Oscar Nomination