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Troy Kotsur makes Oscar history as the first deaf man to win

Troy Kotsur may have been considered the favorite for Best Supporting Actorbut his real victory at the Oscars 2022 Sunday night is more than just a crowd pleaser.

The groundbreaking honor makes the 53-year-old ‘CODA’ star the first deaf man to receive the prestigious award – and the second deaf actor to win the accolade – marking a huge moment not only in Hollywood history. but in the representation of people with disabilities.

The moment was not wasted for Sunday audiences, many of whom cheered the actor in American Sign Language as he made his way to the Oscars stage to collect his historic award.

In a moving speech, Kotsur gave a nod to the “wonderful deaf theater stages where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor”, and he seemed well aware of the greater impact off its Best Supporting Actor award.

“I just wanted to say this is dedicated to the deaf community, the CODA community, and the disabled community,” Kotsur continued. “Now is our time.”

Troy Kotsur accepts the Best Supporting Actor award for ‘CODA’ onstage at the 94th Academy Awards.

ROBYN BECK via Getty Images

The Arizona-raised actor also thanked one of his biggest inspirations.

“My dad, he was the best signer in our family. But he got in a car accident, and he was paralyzed from the neck down and he wasn’t able to sign anymore,” Kotsur said. “Dad, I learned so much from ‘I will always love you. You are my hero.”

But much like Frank Rossi, the character Kotsur plays in “CODA,” his powerful speech was also laced with levity. At one point, the actor made a joke about the film’s cast guesting at the White House.

“We met with our president, Joe, and Dr. Jill, and I was planning on teaching them dirty sign language, but [my “CODA” co-star] Marlee Matlin told me to behave,” he joked. “So don’t worry, Marlee. I will not be dropping F-bombs in my speech today.”

In Apple’s acclaimed family drama, written and directed by Sian Heder, Kotsur plays Frank Rossi, a deaf father and fisherman. Frank, along with his wife Jackie (played by deaf actor Marlee Matlin) and son Leo (played by deaf actor Daniel Durant), leans on his able-bodied daughter Ruby (Emilia Jones) as a connection to the world of hearing. (“CODA” stands for “child of deaf adults.”) Ruby is a talented singer, which poses a conflict among the others. of his deaf family.

The Arizona-born actor’s win is especially significant because of the Academy’s affinity for movies on disability who lack real representation of disability – which has led to some truly horrific and harmful representations of disability At the movie theater.

Kotsur’s win is also significant because of the Academy’s history of rewarding able-bodied actors for playing characters with disabilities. These include multiple Best Actor winners – including, but not limited to, Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Stephen Hawking in 2014’s “The Theory of Everything”; Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Ray Charles in 2004’s “Ray”; and Daniel Day-Lewis’ take on Irish writer and painter Christy Brown in 1989’s “My Left Foot.”

Kotsur is now the second deaf actor to win an Oscar, joining his “CODA” co-star Matlin, who became the first deaf person to be nominated for and then win an Oscar. Matlin was named Best Actress for her role in 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God.”

Hopefully Kotsur’s victory will help Hollywood realize that he – and other disabled people in the entertainment industry, from actors and directors to writers, cinematographers, editors, crew members and everyone else – are talented and deserve jobs in films about their lives. wait another 36 years for a third disabled person to be recognized by the Academy.

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