Rich Fury/Getty Troy Kotsur
In CODA, Kotsur, who is deaf, plays Frank, a man navigating the highs and lows of his fishing business. As Frank, who is deaf, deals with his business, his hearing daughter, Ruby (Emilia Jones), thinks about going to college and leaving her family without an interpreter.
His performance earned Kotsur, 53, a Screen Actors Guild nomination for outstanding performance by a male actor. Kotsur is the first solo deaf actor to receive an individual SAG Award nomination.
"Now that I feel like I've broken in and received these nominations, I'm so glad that they recognized me — not because I'm deaf but because I'm a talented actor," Kotsur told The Hollywood Reporter. "I've already recognized all their work and their talent as artists, but now it's their opportunity to see my skill as an artist. I don't care if I win or not."
Kotsur likened his nomination to his beard, telling the publication, "Do you see my beard? I have many pieces of hair making up my beard. Can you count them? No, you don't have the time for that. That is like so many of the hearing actors out there with many opportunities. But a deaf actor is just like one small hair."
The actor stars alongside Marlee Matlin in the film. Matlin was the first deaf actress to win an Academy Award for her performance in Children of a Lesser God and remains the only deaf actor to have ever won an Oscar.
"Being nominated and receiving awards, it becomes historical," said Kotsur. "Many generations can look back and see this as a standout moment with CODA receiving nominations and awards."
Apple TV+ Troy Kotsur and Marlee Matlin
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He added, "Children of a Lesser God was first, and we're hoping that CODA will be the second. And after I'm dead and gone, I would like to have that legacy."
In August, Matlin spoke to PEOPLE about advocating for more inclusion of the deaf community in Hollywood.
"A lot of people forget that diversity also includes deaf and disabled people," Matlin, 55, told PEOPLE via her interpreter and longtime friend Jack Jason. "I'm still seeing lack of representation, whether you're talking about in magazines, or online, or on television, or in film. I still feel we've got to remind people constantly."
During pre-production on CODA, Matlin demanded that the production hire deaf actors to play the deaf characters in the film.
"I said I would walk off if they hired a hearing actor to play the deaf father. That's not something that I take for granted any longer," Matlin said. "I was actually surprised that they listened."
"In this particular case, I did have clout," she continued. "I was speaking on behalf of my community too. Playing deaf or disabled is not a costume. There's no offense to those previously cast roles where people might've played disabled characters: Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. I mean, they're all great actors. I really have the utmost respect for them, but I can't imagine us doing that any longer."
She added, "There are plenty of deaf actors, plenty of actors with disabilities who are equally able to play those roles."
CODA is now streaming on Apple TV+.