Troy Kotsur won an Oscar and entered the history books all in one very special night.
On March 27, the 53-year-old CODA star took home the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, becoming the first deaf male actor to receive an Oscar. The first-time nominee bested Belfast's Ciarán Hinds, Being the Ricardos' J.K. Simmons, The Power of the Dog's Jesse Plemons and Kodi Smit-McPhee for the prize.
Kotsur's CODA costar Marlee Matlin, who made history herself in 1987 when she became first-ever deaf performer to win an Oscar, received a sweet shout-out as she cheered him on from the crowd. Recalling how the actress had previously stopped him from teaching President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden "dirty sign language" during a cast visit to the White House, Kotsur quipped through an ASL interpreter, "Don't worry, Marlee, I won't drop any 'F' bombs in my speech today. Instead, I really want to thank all the wonderful deaf theater stages where I was allowed and given the opportunity to develop my craft as an actor."
Elsewhere in his acceptance speech, Kotsur remarked at his "amazing" journey to the Oscars and thanked CODA director Sean Hader for being "the best communicator."
"You brought the deaf world and the hearing world together," he said. "You are our bridge, and your name will forever be on that bridge."
Stressing the importance of communication, Kotsur went on to explain how his father had been "the best signer in our family" before a car accident rendered him paralyzed from the waist down and he was no longer able to sign. "Dad, I learned so much from you," he said. "I'll always love you. You are my hero."
Kotsur added, "I just wanted to say that this is dedicated to the deaf community, the C.O.D.A. community and the disabled community. This is our moment."
Also starring Daniel Durant, Emilia Jones and Amy Forsyth, CODA follows a young girl who wants to pursue her love of singing at the Berklee College of Music but is afraid of leaving her deaf parents and brother alone to tend to their fishing business.
Kotsur has been blazing trails this awards season for his performance in the film. In the past few weeks, he became the first deaf actor to be honored with an individual Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critic's Choice Award.
"When they said my name I just broke down," he told E! News at the SAG Awards following his momentous win. "Everybody stood up and started cheering, and I felt the opposite. I was just kind of slumping into my chair thinking like, 'Wow.'"
He added that the victory was especially meaningful as a message to the deaf community, sharing, "I'm so grateful for SAG to recognize us actors, not looking at us deaf actors, but actors who happen to be deaf."