During the 94th Academy Awards last Sunday night, Troy Kotsur made history as the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar for his terrific performance in CODA (which also won Best Picture). Throughout his career, most of his works are in theater and he only has a few on-screen credits including a guest appearance in a show that you might know called The Mandalorian.
Before Kotsur made a breakthrough to the global audience with his award-winning performance in CODA, he made an appearance in the fifth episode of The Mandalorian season one titled "Chapter 5: The Gunslinger" where he played Tusken Raider Scout #1. Not only that, he is also the one who created the Tusken Raider sign language which is now being used in both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.
"I did research on the culture and environment of Tusken Raiders," Kotsur said as he discussed his process on developing the Tusken Sign Language during an interview with The Daily Moth. "I researched on the desert called "sand people." That is what Luke Skywalker calls them "sand people." Anyway, my goal was to avoid ASL. I made sure it became Tusken Sign Language based on their culture and environment."
Kotsur also shared that he has been a huge Star Wars ever since he was eight years old. "I have been a fan since that age," he said. "Remember that in the year of 1977, technology was limited and accessibility for Deaf people were limited, but that Star Wars movie blew my mind. It changed my life. Why? It was like “wet-eyes” – so visual for me. For the first 5 minutes, remember the opening of that movie? The spaceships shooting, the robots, C-3P0 scrambling, and all of that overwhelmed my eyes. I watched it 28 times. I watched the movie Star Wars: A New Hope 28 times."
When the newly-minted Oscar-winning actor found out that he will be joining the Star Wars universe, it felt that it was a dream come true for him. "Really, it is a blessing! When I was eight years old, I dreamed to be part of Star Wars. Many, many years later, almost 40 years later- it is fate," he shared.
In the end, Kotsur expressed his hope that this will be the beginning of recognition to the importance of sign language in Disney or mainstream Hollywood in general. "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," he concluded.
It is awesome to learn that Kotsur was involved in creating the Tusken sign language, which has now been used more especially recently in The Book of Boba Fett when the titular bounty hunter was spending a lot of time with Tusken Raiders in the earlier episodes. It just shows that not only Kotsur has a wonderful contribution to the deaf community, he also has a great impact now on the Star Wars universe and set a standard on how the Tusken Raiders will communicate when we see more of them moving forward.
The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett are streaming on Disney+. You can also catch Kotsur's Oscar-winning performance in CODA which is streaming on Apple TV+.