Daniel Durant knew he wanted to be a part of “CODA” after reading Sian Heder’s sensitive script. The film tells the story of Ruby (Emilia Jones), the only hearing member of her family, with Durant playing her deaf brother Leo. The actor was struck by the care put into the story, which shows the deaf community in a realistic light, rather than the typical Hollywood version, in which deaf characters are often depicted as victims. “I cried a little bit when I finished the script,” says Durant via interpreter in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “She had all these things that deaf people would do naturally that are intuitive and endemic to being a deaf person.” Watch the video chat with Durant above.
Durant shares some similarities with Leo as a deaf person who is fiercely independent and assertive. “I don’t feel like I’m timid or less than,” the actor explains. “I am a deaf person, sure, but I’m still out here, ‘let’s get on with life, let’s do something,’ I’m going to enjoy this beautiful language, I wanna get out and meet people.” Leo is confident in himself and tries to help his sister find that same confidence by encouraging her to follow her dreams of becoming a singer, as seen in a complex emotional scene towards the end of the film. “We don’t want her to feel like she’s being kicked out of the house or that she’s different from us,” states Durant, “but at the same time, Leo has to do something for her because he wants her to be happy.”
The film was also an exciting opportunity for Durant to work with two actors he looks up to, Troy Kotsur and Marlee Matlin, who play his parents. He had previously worked with Kotsur in a Deaf West play and he was honored to act alongside him again in “CODA.” “His signing and facial expressions are so beautiful,” observes Durant. “He’s these golden hands on the screen I’m just in awe of his work.” As for Matlin, “she’s a legend,” the actor raves. “I learned so much from working with her.”
Durant is an advocate within the deaf community and has been pleased to see the positive response from his peers. “A lot of deaf people are really thrilled that we were able to show this piece of deaf culture, of deaf life,” he reveals. Much of those warm feelings stem from the film’s three-dimensional view of its deaf characters, who are allowed to have fun just as much as they struggle to get by, just like everyone else. “This is our chance as deaf people to finally say, ‘Hey, we can be funny, we can even be a little bit dirty too.'”
To watch the same interview with closed captioning, view the video below with CC turned on in the bottom right corner.
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