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Mesa-born deaf actor makes film history with Oscar nomination

Troy Kotsur, who grew up in the Valley and attended Westwood High School, is the first male deaf actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.

MESA, Ariz. — Valley native Troy Kotsur made film history Tuesday by becoming the first male deaf actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. 

The 53-year-old alumni of Mesa's Westwood High School earned a nomination for his supporting role in "CODA," a coming-of-age film about a girl with deaf parents. 

Kotsur told Entertainment Tonight he was "blessed" and "overwhelmed" to be nominated for his performance after spending many years struggling as an actor.

Marlee Matlin, who was the first female deaf actor to earn an Oscar nomination in 1987 for "Children of a Lesser God," played Kotsur's wife in "CODA." 

"Very proud and happy for my costar," Matlin wrote on Twitter after Tuesday's announcement of the Oscar nominations. 

Kotsur has additionally earned praise on social media from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who is a fan of his film work. 

According to a 2003 interview with the East Valley Tribune, Kotsur caught the acting bug while attending the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf in his youth.

A drama teacher at Westwood High encouraged Kotsur to pursue his ambitions and perform on stage.  

"Looking back when I was little, I really enjoyed my journey," Kotsur told the Tribune. "Facing many barriers made me a stronger person."

Kotsur's brothers, Brian and Kevin, worked for public safety agencies around the Valley. Their father, Leonard Kotsur, had been Mesa's police chief. 

Kotsur went on to intern at a news station in Phoenix before studying theater at Gallaudet University. He later appeared in productions at Los Angeles' Deaf West Theatre. 

Locals will get to find out if Kotsur takes home the big award on March 27 during the 94th Academy Awards ceremony. 

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