‘CODA’ star Troy Kotsur makes history as first Deaf male actor to win an Oscar

A man onstage signs ASL as a woman stands beside him.
Troy Kotsur, left, accepts the Oscar for actor in a supporting role from presenter Yuh-Jung Youn during Sunday’s Academy Awards.
(Myung Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“CODA” star Troy Kotsur made history Sunday as the first Deaf man to win an Academy Award for acting.

The veteran performer claimed the supporting actor prize for his powerful turn as Frank Rossi, a hardened fisherman with a raunchy sense of humor and a big heart. He was nominated alongside Ciarán Hinds (“Belfast”), Jesse Plemons (“The Power of the Dog”), J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (“The Power of the Dog”).

The milestone comes 35 years after Kotsur’s “CODA” co-star, Marlee Matlin, became the first Deaf performer ever to win an Oscar for her performance in “Children of a Lesser God.”


A transcript of his acceptance speech, which he delivered in American Sign Language with an interpreter, is below.

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“When I received the nominee information, I knew that I wasn’t alone because Marlee had inspired me,” Kotsur told the Los Angeles Times the day the Oscar nominations were announced.

“It’s a tough journey as a Deaf actor,” he added. “There’s so few opportunities out there, and she kept on going. She was persistent. And then so was I with my own career as a stage actor. So here I am today.”

During the 2022 awards season, Kotsur emerged as the front-runner in the supporting-actor race after winning the BAFTA, the Critics Choice Award and the Screen Actors Guild Award for his work in “CODA.” In the heartwarming film about a hearing child of Deaf adults, Kotsur plays the patriarch of the central family opposite Matlin, Daniel Durant and Emilia Jones.

‘CODA’ star Troy Kotsur is the first Deaf male actor to receive an Oscar nomination. He is nominated for supporting actor for his turn as Frank Rossi.

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Last month, “CODA” received Oscar nominations for supporting actor, adapted screenplay and best picture. Leading up to the big night, the Apple TV+ drama picked up considerable steam by clinching the top prizes at both the Producers and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

“I’m tired of Deaf people being portrayed as a victim,” Kotsur said in an interview with The Times.


“This time, in this project, I just want to show some b—, some real Deaf b—, that hey, this character’s a tough guy, a Deaf male who struggles just like anyone else out there who owns a small business. The only thing that’s different is the method of communication.”

Here is Kotsur’s full Oscars acceptance speech.

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“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.

“It’s really amazing that our film ‘CODA’ has reached out worldwide. It even reached all the way to the White House. And they invited the cast of ‘CODA’ to visit and have a tour of the White House. We met our president, Joe, and Dr. Jill [Biden], and I was planning on teaching them some dirty sign language, but Marlee Matlin told me to behave myself. So don’t worry, Marlee, I won’t drop any F-bombs in my speech today.

“Instead, I really want to thank all of the wonderful Deaf theater stages where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor. Thank you.

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“I read one of Spielberg’s books recently, and he said that the best director, the definition of the best director was a skilled communicator. Sian Heder, you are the best communicator. And the reason why is you brought the Deaf world and the hearing world together, and you are our bridge, and your name will forever be on that bridge. Sian Heder Bridge here in Hollywood, and that was supported by Apple, Sundance, all of our cast or crew, our producers and the community of Gloucester, Massachusetts. So I just want to say, hey, fisherman, hey, Popeyes, don’t forget to eat your spinach.

“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 he no longer was able to sign. Dad, I learned so much from you. I’ll always love you. You are my hero.


“Thank you to my biggest fans, my wife and my daughter Kyra in my hometown of Mesa, Arizona. And Mark Finley, my manager, and our team. I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the Deaf community, the ‘CODA’ community and the disabled community. This is our moment. To my mom, my dad and my brother Mark. They’re not here today, but look at me now. I did it. I love you. Thank you!”

Times intern Kai Grady contributed to this report.