Troy Kotsur’s Historic Oscar Win for ‘CODA’ Is Only the Beginning: ‘It’s Saved My Life, My Career’ | MSN

Troy Kotsur is operating on one hour of sleep, but he’s still smiling ear to ear. It’s Monday, the morning after he became the second deaf performer in Academy history to win an acting award at the Oscars (after his “CODA” co-star Marlee Matlin, who took home best actress in 1987 for “Children of a Lesser God”). His turn as the lusty fisherman Frank Rossi in “CODA” became a favorite of this awards season, and so did appearances from the affable 53-year-old performer, a working Los Angeles stage actor who until recently was not a known entity in Hollywood.

When did your family learn you were deaf?

I was around 10 months old. My mother was cleaning the house, and she dropped some pots and pans, making this loud clattering sound. I was on the floor, and I didn’t react at all. I just carried on playing. My mom suspected something. She made more noise. She went behind me and slammed these pots and pans into each other and noticed that I didn’t look at her. I was just laughing and being a baby. They brought me to the doctor and found out I was deaf. My family freaked out. “How are we going to deal with a deaf kid?” They were so scared. Remember, this is back in the 1960s. They didn’t know what to do with a deaf child. My family learned so much. My dad said, “Troy, sign language is truly a beautiful language. It’s a gift to the world that everyone needs to see.”

It was so touching to hear my father say and recognize the beauty of ASL. Today, I feel like it’s a blessing to have been a part of a hearing family because they taught me how to interact in the hearing world, and I taught them what Deaf culture was like. We were able to have this cultural exchange and two languages.

My father asked me every year when I was younger, around 12 or 13, and I always said no. I appreciate that my father let me choose my own identity because I’m so happy with who I am. Why should I change to fit the outside world and suffer? This is who I am. I’m a deaf man, and you learn to interact with people, and they learn to interact with you. I’ve been patient with the outside world. Now it’s time for the outside world to be patient with me. I think sign language is beautiful. We have all these languages on planet Earth. We can chat, sign language underwater and completely communicate if I dive into a swimming pool or scuba dive. You could sign through a glass window and go into a restaurant even with background noise. There are so many benefits to sign language.

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