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Troy Kotsur is the first deaf man nominated for an acting Oscar

Troy Kotsur says his character in the film <em>CODA</em> is "kinda like a papa bear." The Oscar nominee is seen here with co-star Marlee Matlin in New York City last November.
Jemal Countess
Getty Images for The Gotham Film & Media Institute
Troy Kotsur says his character in the film CODA is "kinda like a papa bear." The Oscar nominee is seen here with co-star Marlee Matlin in New York City last November.

Actor Troy Kotsur is drawing a new wave of praise for his work in the film CODA, after he was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar on Tuesday. Kotsur joins co-star Marlee Matlin as the only deaf actors ever to be nominated for an Oscar.

"So proud of my co-star/friend!" Matlin said via Twitter, after the nominees were announced. Matlin won an Oscar for Children of a Lesser God in 1986.

"HOLY S***," director Sian Heder tweeted, as she described the excitement at her house. "And this is such a dream!"

Kotsur's nomination is the latest step on CODA's charmed journey. Last year, the film vaulted from a successful premiere at the Sundance Film Festival to land a distribution deal with Apple.

The Oscar nod is Kotsur's second major honor in recent days. After the British Academy Film Awards announced his supporting-actor nomination last week, an exultant Kotsur fell out of his chair celebrating.

CODA's title stands for Child of Deaf Adults. And while that could be seen as a thumbnail sketch of its plot, it doesn't account for the subtlety and emotional power that has drawn audiences in.

Kotsur plays Frank Rossi, whose daughter, Ruby (Emilia Jones), is the lone non-deaf member of their immediate family. The film depicts Ruby's growing love for music — and the possibility that her passion for singing will take her far from her family's life, which revolves around a fishing business in Gloucester, Mass.

"He's kinda like a papa bear," Kotsur told NPR in an interview last year.

The actor also said that one of the scenes in CODA resembles something that happened with his own daughter.

"A long time ago when she was in kindergarten, she sang for a class performance" he said. "I asked, 'Can I just kind of feel your neck?' And it was very cute. And then all those years later, the movie CODA was a real flashback where I did the same thing."

Kotsur, 53, was born deaf and grew up in Mesa, Ariz. He attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., before launching into an acting career on the stage, on TV and in films. His previous credits include a Broadway turn in "Big River: The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn."

Kotsur told NPR's Mandalit del Barco that his love for acting was sparked at a young age, when he watched the first Star Wars movie in the 1970s.

"It was so visual, the costumes, it just blew me away," he said. "I watched it again and again. And it got me hoping that someday I could make a movie."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.