CODA Oscar Winner Troy Kotsur Had A Major Role In Star Wars You May Not Realize

Troy Kotsur accepting his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor CODA at the 2022 Academy Awards
(Image credit: ABC)

Over the weekend at the 94th Academy Awards (which can be watched with a Hulu subscription), the highly-coveted Best Picture Oscar prize was awarded to Apple TV+ film CODA, alongside every other category it was nominated for, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Troy Kotsur’s Best Supporting Actor win. Following Kotsur’s win at this year's Oscars, which makes him the first deaf male actor to win an Academy Award, you may not realize the actor also has been part of the Star Wars universe. 

Troy Kotsur was hired by Lucasfilm to work on the sign language the Tusken Raiders use in Disney+ series The Mandalorian, and he even played one of the scouts in the Season 1 episode called “Chapter 5: The Gunslinger.” When speaking to deaf news site The Daily Moth prior to his CODA praise, the actor said this of the opportunity: 

When I was eight years old, I dreamed of being part of Star Wars. Many, many years later, almost 40 years later. It is fate… I hope that you keep telling Disney + that you want to see more sign language. I hope that the producers keep an open mind because this is just the beginning.

CODA’s recognition at the Oscars makes serves as a huge win for representation in the deaf community, but many may not know one of its stars has also played a major role in its depiction on screen from a setting like the Star Wars universe. During the interview, Kotsur explained that he wanted to “avoid” using American Sign Language when developing the signs for the Tusken Raiders. He instead looked to the aliens’ “culture and environment” to create brand new signs for them. 

Oftentimes the deaf community is depicted in movies and television for dramatic topics that highlight their struggles in a world that often does not make it easy for them to maneuver. But in The Mandalorian, and then as a storyline in The Book of Boba Fett, Lucasfilm gave Troy Kotsur a unique job that implemented his community in a new and imaginative way. 

tusken raiders in The Mandalorian

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Across the actor’s many years performing, he has found a handful of roles in movies and TV, with 2021’s CODA being his most prominent role to date. It’s great to hear that Lucasfilm provided him more work in such a high-profile project, but many people likely had no idea it was him until now, because Tusken Raiders don't have human faces. Disney has also brought representation to the deaf community as of late with Lauren Ridloff’s superhero role in Eternals, which caused a 285% increase in interest in American Sign Language when the movie was released. 

CODA, which stands for Child of Deaf Adults, is a movie about Emilia Jones’ Ruby, the only hearing person in a deaf family, who finds herself torn between pursuing her dreams in music in fear of abandoning her parents. You can stream the Best Picture winner with an Apple TV+ subscription now.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.