What to Know About Troy Kotsur, the Oscar-Winning Star of 'CODA'

From Troy Kotsur's start in theater to his love of Star Wars, here's everything to know about the CODA star and Oscar winner

Troy Kotsur
Troy Kotsur. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Troy Kotsur is breaking barriers both on and off the screen.

The Arizona-born actor, who stars in 2021's feature film CODA, might've won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at the 2022 Academy Awards, but his successes span wider than the silver screen.

At nine months old, his parents discovered he was Deaf, but that hasn't stopped Kotsur from pursuing his dreams and serving as inspiration for others in the Deaf community to pursue theirs.

"Bottom line is I'm so happy that I've had the experience and the training so that young, Deaf people on stage and TV and film can have more opportunities. I'm excited to help them," Kotsur tells PEOPLE exclusively via interpreter Justin Maurer. "And so CODA has been a game-changer and Marlee [Matlin] too, in that way."

Troy Kotsur and Marlee Matlin. Apple TV+

In the film, which is up for Best Picture at the 2022 Oscars, Kotsur plays the father of a teenage daughter named Ruby (played by Emilia Jones), who's the only hearing person in her family and has dreams of becoming a singer.

The movie's title, CODA, stands for Children of Deaf Adults, which refers to hearing children who grow up in a family where American Sign Language (ALS) is their primary form of communication and are members of the Deaf community.

Keep scrolling for fun facts about the Oscar-nominated actor, from how Kotsur got his start in acting to the movie that "changed [his] life."

Troy Kotsur is married to actress Deanne Bray.

28th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards – Arrivals
Frazer Harrison/Getty

Known for her role as the titular character in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, Bray is an actress who was born Deaf but is bilingual in both English and ASL. She met her husband for the first time when she visited a friend at the National Theatre of the Deaf in Connecticut in 1993, the company Kotsur was a member of for two years.

They reunited when Kotsur moved to her hometown of Los Angeles in 1994 and worked alongside each other in a few stage productions. "We didn't click because I didn't believe in falling for someone while working on stage," Bray told Very Well Health. "Over time, our friendship grew from there. We clicked in 1997 and got married in 2001."

Troy Kotsur has a daughter.

Troy Kotsur daughter
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

The couple enjoys spending time with their daughter, Kyra, who's both hearing and bilingual in English and ASL. Like Kotsur's fictional daughter, Ruby, in CODA, Kyra has a passion for music.

"When my daughter is playing music, she doesn't know I'm standing behind her. I'll walk up and I'll touch the body of the acoustic guitar and I can feel the vibrations of the guitar," Kotsur told ABC News. "I can do the same with the piano. I can rest my arms on the grand piano and feel the vibrations when she's practicing," he added.

Troy Kotsur got his start in theater.

Arrival & Departure
Paul Dimalanta

Due to a lack of opportunity for Deaf actors in the film and television industry, Kotsur found freedom on stage. He attended Gallaudet University to study theater, and then toured with the National Theatre of the Deaf.

Of Mice and Men marked his first major production in 1994, followed by an upward 20 productions at the nonprofit Los Angeles theater company Deaf West. This only marked the start of a trailblazing journey and acclaimed career for the actor.

Troy Kotsur was the first Deaf actor to win an individual Screen Actors Guild Award.

Troy Kotsur
Rich Fury/Getty

Kotsur took home the 2022 SAG award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role category for CODA. This marked a monumental milestone as he was the first Deaf person to win an individual award in the ceremony's history.

In his acceptance speech, he not only thanked his family and fellow cast members, but he showed his appreciation for Apple TV+ for their "support and access with burn-in closed captioning" and "providing ASL interpreting services."

He additionally expressed his gratitude towards the company for "believing in us Deaf actors, and casting us authentically as actors who happen to be Deaf."

Troy Kotsur made history at the 2022 Oscars.

Troy Kotsur
Troy Kotsur (L). Neilson Barnard/Getty

Kotsur nabbed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in CODA, marking his first Academy Award win. In his speech, he thanked his wife and daughter and paid tribute to his father, whom he referred to as "the best signer in our family."

The actor made history as the first Deaf man to win an acting Oscar, and the second Deaf winner following costar Matlin's win back in 1987.

Troy Kotsur is inspired by Marlee Matlin.

troy kotsur
Courtesy Apple

Kotsur often speaks proudly of his CODA costar, Matlin, and how she's inspired him and many others in the Deaf community. The actress was the first Deaf person to be nominated for an Oscar in 1987 — and win.

"Marlee has been my mentor," he tells PEOPLE. "She was alone for many years. I understand what Marlee went through and I'm more than happy to support her. And so now I'm becoming more familiar with the industry and all the politics through my experience of the last 30 years. So, I think now I can support Hollywood in opening their mind to gain a new perspective."

Troy Kotsur likes to play villains.

Troy Kotsur
Rich Fury/Getty

The actor expressed his role preference during an interview with NPR, and it's the complete opposite of the character he plays in CODA.

"I like to play villains, then have police officers chase after me, which I did in Criminal Minds," he said. "It's nice to see just kind of the range of the characters I portray and the diversity — romantic, mean, heroes — you name it."

In addition to his roles in CODA and on Criminal Minds, he has appeared on Scrubs and CSI: NY, among others.

Troy Kotsur is a Star Wars fan.

The Mandalorian
Justin Lubin/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Though Kotsur has previously shared with PEOPLE his love of cartoons — specifically Tom and Jerry because "they didn't speak and I didn't speak either," he recalls — his love of Star Wars remains superior.

"What changed my life so much is when I saw Star Wars, the original one, when I was 8 years old. I saw it 28 times," Kotsur told NPR. "It was so visual, the costumes, it just blew me away. I watched it again and again. And it got me hoping that someday I could make a movie."

He later became the first Deaf actor to appear in one of the Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, stating it "was a dream come true." He plays one of the Tusken raiders from a tribe of nomads on the planet Tatooine.

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