‘CODA’ breakout star Troy Kotsur on his sudden success: ‘I never thought this would happen’

Troy Kotsur is one of the breakout stars of 2021, earning rave reviews for his performance in “CODA” since the film premiered at Sundance last January. The veteran actor plays Frank, the foul-mouthed yet lovable father of Ruby (Emilia Jones), who is the only hearing member of her family. He is now finding newfound honors and success, earning nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, Independent Spirit Awards and other groups, even winning Best Supporting Performance at the Gotham Awards. “I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now,” says Kotsur in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “To be a part of working with this class of elite actors, I mean, I never thought that would happen to me.” Watch the full webchat above.

It was a big departure for Kotsur to play a character like Frank, a born-and-bred New England fisherman, having grown up on the other side of the country in Arizona. “It was so transformational to transition to Frank, being in another state where there is an ocean, and I was able to see a whale and various fish and be part of a fishing industry,” he recalls. He trained for two weeks before shooting so he could establish himself in the character and get used to all the fishing gear, from the boots to the heavy gloves. “It’s not easy to sign in that kind of a costume,” he adds.

In addition to bonding with local fishermen in the area, Kotsur also developed bonds with his castmates. He had known Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant (who play Frank’s mother and son in the film) before shooting began, but he connected with both actors on set, particularly Durant. “It felt like I was his real father and that he was my son,” admits Kotsur. “Because I think he needed somebody that had been through experiences like marriage and I would consult him on things like that.” The pair lived together at an Airbnb for two months, where they developed that natural chemistry you see between them onscreen.

One of the most profound scenes in “CODA” occurs when Ruby sings for her father on the bed of his truck, and Frank feels the vibrations on her neck. The moment allows Frank to appreciate Ruby’s gift, which eventually leads to her parents approving of her dreams of becoming a singer, all told in a subtle yet emotional scene. “The audience can see that tender moment between the father and the daughter as they lock eyes and to take that in,” explains Kotsur, “that’s what we wanted to present and let the audience come to their own conclusions.” It is likely that this scene is what has helped Kotsur gain the kinds of notices from critics and audiences of which most actors can only dream. “This is the new beginning for me and I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.”

To watch this same interview with closed captions, click the CC button on the video below:

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