Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur on How 'CODA's SAG Award Wins Pave the Way for Deaf Performers (Exclusive)
By Mona Khalifeh
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Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur are celebrating CODA's historic Screen Actors Guild Award wins.
ET's Nischelle Turner spoke to the pair ahead of the cast taking home awards for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and Kotsur nabbing Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Sunday night, about what the film's SAG recognition will mean for deaf performers.
"It's really exciting for many of us in our community to be represented in the most Hollywood way possible, but it's been a long time, representation has been a struggle for us, especially hiring deaf actors, directors and beyond," Matlin told ET. "So, CODA is here, and we have three deaf actors carrying the film authentically, authentic deaf actors, and you can't ask for anything better than that."
As for Kotsur's nomination, Matlin believes it will pave the way for more deaf actors to come.
"I'm delighted for Troy. I've been a big fan of his for 30-plus years, so, he now will pave the way for more deaf actors, for the rest of us," she added.
Kotsur shared a similar sentiment about Matlin, whose journey as a deaf actor he's watched over the years, along with the trail she blazed with her Oscar win for 1986's Children of a Lesser God.
"I feel like the first time a deaf person won an Oscar, it was a long journey. And I was watching Marlee's journey, and she was such an important role model for deaf people, and was a deaf person who just happened to be an actor. And so, I was watching how persistent she was and how she stuck to her beliefs, and of course, it gave me hope," Kotsur shared. "I was inspired and now we're both sharing this experience, with me being nominated, and so it feels like Marlee has a lot less educating to do, and she can pull me in, and it's teamwork now, and we're stronger together. We really hope that we can make progress, and Hollywood can make progress too."
When speaking to Matlin, Kotsur and the rest of the cast after their wins Sunday night, Matlin said the cast's Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture win felt like "a blur."
"I don't even remember, I don't remember," Matlin admitted. "I remember reading COVID on their lips, on Daveed and Lin, and I was like, 'CODA?' and I didn't even have to look at the interpreters, sorry interpreters, and then I saw her (Emilia Jones) start to cry, and then, the rest is a blur."
It was equally as emotional for Jones, who touched on how close the cast is.
"I mean, honestly, this is just a close cast, and it's honestly the best category to be in, ensemble. We're very much an ensemble," Jones gushed. "We're a family on-screen and off-screen, so I can't believe we won. And honestly, I'm so happy and so grateful."