Troy Kotsur is an American actor and film and stage director who is well known for playing the role of Frank Rossi in the 2021 coming-of-age comedy-drama film ‘CODA,’ which earned him the title of Best Supporting Actor at the 94th Academy Awards. He is the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar.
Troy Michael Kotsur was born on Wednesday, July 24, 1968 (age 53 years; as of 2021), and he hails from Mesa, Arizona, US. Although Kotsur was born with hearing impairment, his parents discovered it when he was 9 months old. While talking about how his mother discovered his deafness, in an interview, he said,
I was in the crib when my mother spoke behind me but I didn’t respond…She came back with two pans from the kitchen. She banged real loud but I still didn’t hear.”
Soon after, his hearing parents learned American Sign Language (ASL) to help Kotsur develop communication skills. At the age of eight, he was fascinated by films when he came across the American epic space film ‘Star Wars,’ which he watched over 28 times. While talking about the same in an interview, he said,
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 attended Phoenix Day School for the Deaf in Phoenix, Arizona, which did not have a theatre department. During his sophomore year, he enrolled in Westwood High School, Mesa. Although he caught the acting bug at the age of twelve, he took to the stage at Westwood High when his drama teacher, Jay Jones, encouraged Kotsur to perform a pantomime skit in the senior variety show. The standing ovation he received after appearing in a school pantomime fueled his passion for acting. He also played varsity basketball during his high days. His first play was Susan Zeder’s ‘In a Room Somewhere,’ directed by Victor Brown, in 1989. After a short internship at KTSP-TV, in 1987, Kotsur moved to Washington, D.C., to study theatre at Gallaudet University, but he quit the course in 1989 after securing a job at the National Theater of the Deaf (NTD).
Height (approx.): 6′
Hair Color: Salt & Pepper (dyed Black)
Eye Color: Hazel Green
Parents & Siblings
Troy Kotsur grew up as the only deaf member of his family. His father, Leonard Stephen Kotsur (also known as Len Kotsur), was a police chief in Mesa, who died in 2001. When Troy Kotsur was 17, his father got into a car accident, which paralysed his body from the neck down. Consequently, a communication gap arose between Troy and his father.
His mother, JoDee Louise True, was a tailor. She died in 2000. Troy Kotsur grew up with three brothers. When Troy was 7, his younger brother Brett Kotsur who was 4 then, drowned in a swimming pool in their backyard. Unfortunately, Brett was underwater for almost forty minutes and the accident led to his severe brain damage and dysfunctionality. After Brett’s revival, he had to depend on a ventilator for his 21 year-long-life.
His elder brother Kevin Kotsur works as assistant chief of police in Avondale, meanwhile, his other elder brother Brian Kotsur worked at Mesa Fire and Medical Department.
Wife & Children
On 1 September 2001, Troy Kotsur got married to the American actress Deanne Bray. Like Troy, Bray was also born deaf. She is best known for her title role in PAX TV’s Canadian-American television series ‘Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye’ (2002-2005). Later, she became an ASL teacher. Together, they have a daughter named Kyra Monique Kotsur.
In the summer of 1993, Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray made acquaintance in Chester, Connecticut at the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD). At that time, Deanne was visiting NTD while Troy was a part of its tour company. They came into a relationship in February 1997. After a four-year-long relationship, the couple got married in 2001.
After he graduated from high school, Kotsur interned at KTSP-TV (now KSAZ-TV), a television station that was Phoenix’s CBS affiliate at that time. During his stint as an editor at KTSP-TV, he mostly sat alone in the editing room disconnected from people due to his inability to talk and listen. The sense of disconnection from others urged him to pursue a career where he can interact with others. Therefore, he decided to become an actor. His experience led him to Hollywood, where he worked with the Los Angeles-based prestigious deaf theatre, Deaf West Theatre.
While majoring in theatre at Gallaudet University, he started his career with National Technical Institute for the Deaf touring company, Sunshine Too, where he worked from 1990 to 1991. Thereafter, he joined the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD), where he starred in the plays Treasure Island’ (1991-1992) and ‘Ophelia’ (1991-1992). In 1994, he started working with the Deaf West Theatre. In 1997, he worked alongside American Deaf artist Chuck Baird in Lyle Kessler’s play ‘Orphans.’
In 2011, he starred in an ASL adaptation of ‘Big River,’ a musical play based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The broadway show debuted at the American Airlines Theater in New York City. The play featured a combination of hearing and signing actors for each role. In the play, Kotsur, alongside American actor Lyle Kanouse, played the role of Huckleberry Finn’s drunkard, greedy, and backwoods father, Pap. While Kanouse was the hearing actor, Kotsur was the signing actor.
Other ASL theatrical productions under his belt include ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ as Stanley, ‘Of Mice and Men’ as Lenny, and ‘True West’ as Lee.’ In 2012, he played the titular role in Stephen Sachs’ ‘Cyrano,’ a co-production of Deaf West Theatre and The Fountain Theatre.’ In the play, Kotsur played the role of a brilliant ASL poet who loves the alluring hearing woman Roxie while she desires Cyrano’s coarse rock-musician brother Chris. His performance in the play earned him the nomination for an Ovation Award (Los Angeles’s counterpart of Broadway’s Tony Award) for Best Lead Actor in a Play.
Other Deaf West productions in which he appeared include ‘Our Town’ (2017), ‘American Buffalo’ (2017), and ‘Edward Albee’s At Home at the Zoo’ (2017).
He was nominated for the 2015 LA Drama Critics Circle Award for the Deaf West Theatre’s theatrical production ‘Spring Awakening’ in which he appeared as an adult man. In 2018, he started touring with the romantic play ‘Arrival & Departure’ by Stephen Sachs.
In 2007, he made his film debut with the American thriller film ‘The Number 23’ in which he played the role of Barnaby.
In 2009, he was featured in the documentary ‘See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary.’ Besides directing the film ‘No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie’ (2013), Kotsur also played the role of Matt in it. In 2016, he starred as James Hansen in the indie drama film ‘Wild Prairie Rose.’ Set in 1952, the film follows a woman named Rose Miller who returns to her rural hometown of Beresford, South Dakota to care for her ailing mother, where she falls in love with a deaf man.
Kotsur rose to prominence with the 2021 coming-of-age comedy-drama film ‘CODA’ in which he played the supporting role of Frank Rossi, a fisherman and deaf father to a hearing teenage daughter, who aspires to become a singer. CODA’s director Sian Heder first saw Kotsur’s performances in Deaf West productions of ‘Our Town’ (2017) and Edward Albee’s ‘At Home at the Zoo’ (2017). In the film, Kotsur’s wife’s role was played by Marlee Matlin who became the first female deaf actor to win an Oscar in 1987 for the American film ‘Children of a Lesser God’ (1986).
In 2013, he made his directional debut with the American drama film ‘No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie,’ which premiered at the Heartland Film Festival. The film narrates the story of a deaf actor who plays the role of a superhero on a children’s television show and helps a young deaf boy who gets bullied at school.
Apart from No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie, he has directed various ASL plays at Deaf West Theatre like Aladdin And The Wonderful Lamp, Eye, Aesop Who?, The Giving Tree, Three Musketeers, Lone Star, and Where’s the Cross?
In 2017, he featured in the short film ‘Father’s Day Breakfast’ as Stephen. The short film follows a deaf father, Stephen, and a hearing son, Michael, and their journey to show each other how much they care.
In 2001, he made his television debut with the American medical drama ‘Strong Medicine’ in which he played the role of Lars in an episode titled “Fix.”
He came into the limelight when he played the recurring role of Troy Myers in ‘Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye’ (2002-2005).
Other TV series in which he appeared include Doc (2003), CSI: NY (2006), and Scrubs (2007). In 2012, he appeared as John Myers, an escaped inmate who sews his victims’ mouths shut, in the American police procedural crime drama ‘Criminal Minds’ in the episode “The Silencer.”
A Star Wars fan since childhood, his dream came true when he was cast in ‘The Mandalorian’ (2019), the first live-action series in the Star Wars franchise. In the Emmy-nominated series, Kotsur played one of the Tusken raider scouts from a tribe of nomads on the planet Tatooine, becoming the first deaf actor to appear in a Star Wars production.
For the Film ‘CODA’ (2021)
- Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role at Academy Awards (2022)
- Best Supporting Actor at BAFTA Awards (2022)
- Best Movie Supporting Actor at Critics’ Choice Awards (2022)
- Outstanding Film Supporting Performance at Gotham Awards (2021)
- Best Supporting Male in a Feature Film at Independent Spirit Awards (2021)
- ‘Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role’ and ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture’ at Screen Actors Guild Awards (2022)
- An award in the category of ‘Lead Performance’ by Los Angeles Drama Circle Critics in 2012 for the play ‘Cyrano’
- Legacy Award at 2016 Heartland Film Festival
- Cartoon: Tom & Jerry
- Film Series: Star Wars
- Film(s): Jaws’ (1975) and ‘E.T’ (1982)
- While talking about his parent’s support in pursuing a career in the entertainment industry, he said,
Of course, they wanted what was ‘safe’ for me, but over time, my parents learned that part of my personality is being a risk-taker…I was born a storyteller.
- An avid dog lover, Kotsur has a pet dog named Stella. He posts various pictures with Stella on his Instagram account.
- The production team of the TV show ‘Criminal Minds’ took the extraordinary step of rewriting a character in an episode from a hearing role into a deaf role solely so they could hire Kotsur. Apparently, the Criminal Minds casting director was fascinated by Kotsur’s performance in the hit theatrical production ‘Cyrano,’ staged at the Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles. Thereafter, the casting director convinced the TV team to change the role in the upcoming episode from a hearing character to a deaf character and hired Kotsur.
- Kotsur developed a fictional sign language for the Tuskens in The Mandalorian (2019).
- He is a non-vegetarian.
- Once, in her Facebook post, Deanne Bray revealed that she got married to Troy Kotsur twice, first in September 2001 and then in November 2001.