Deaf Community Celebrates Award for Best Supporting Actor

Crom SaundersI am pleased to have Crom Saunders back with us as a guest blogger today. A theatre interpreter and American Sign Language (ASL) master, Crom has a M.A. in Creative Writing and began teaching ASL and Deaf Culture at several universities before getting tenure at Columbia College Chicago, where he is currently Director of Deaf Studies.

by Crom Saunders

When I saw Troy Kotsur perform as Stanley in Deaf West Theatre’s A Streetcar Named Desire in 2020, I knew, or at least hoped, he was destined for a distinguished career as an actor.

In the years since, Kotsur has held some acclaimed roles on Deaf West’s stage, and several film appearances, but nothing that garnered nationwide attention until the 2021 film CODA.

Troy Kotsur was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 94th Academy Awards. That honor was well deserved in the eyes of many film aficionados and critics. After all, Kotsur has already won several other prestigious awards (such as the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance, plus the Independent Spirit Award and the Critic’s Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor) for his portrayal of Frank Rossi in CODA, a feather in the collective cap of the American Deaf community.

The Oscar nomination was also the first Actor/Actress nomination for a Deaf actor since Marlee Matlin’s win for Best Actress at the 59th Academy Awards in 1987.

Troy’s portrayal of the patriarch of an all-Deaf family, except for the single CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), who makes a living as a fisherman in a small town is excellent in every aspect. His characterization, his expressiveness, and language articulation and delivery all create a very memorable role. CODA is more progressive than many films with Deaf characters in the casting of Deaf actors and actresses for all Deaf roles, and giving American Sign Language the importance it deserves. I don’t always watch the Academy Awards, but I did watch this year — in full support of Kotsur and the cast. I was hopeful (and confident) that Kotsur would win Best Supporting Actor for his stellar work.

And he did! His career can only grow from this point, a good thing for Kotsur himself, but also for audiences everywhere who can appreciate his skill. My hope is that his win will lead to more modern, Deaf-centered films that have mainstream appeal but also give Deaf people the representation they crave and deserve.


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