Newly Minted Oscar Winner Troy Kotsur Helped Create The Tusken Sign Language For The Mandalorian

"CODA" star Troy Kotsur made history with last night's win, taking home only the second acting Oscar ever awarded to a deaf performer. Kotsur has already proven himself a talented actor and, with his gracious appearances this award season, an all-around cool person. Yet despite being the subject of extensive coverage these past few months, there's one highlight on the actor's resume that's still rarely mentioned. Kotsur actually helped develop the sign language used by the Tusken Raiders in the Disney+ series "The Mandalorian."

In an interview with The Daily Moth from long before "CODA" swept the Oscars, Kotsur spoke about designing a new version of signing specifically for the "Star Wars" series. "My goal was to avoid ASL," Kotsur shared. "I made sure it became Tusken Sign Language based on their culture and environment." He demonstrated some of the show's language, and also explained that the sign for Mandalorian is "based on the helmet and the 'M' handshape."

A childhood dream come true

Even better, Kotsur was able to play one of the Tusken Warriors himself. He appears in episode five of "The Mandalorian" as an unnamed Tusken raider scout. The actor called his connection with the show a blessing, adding, "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." According to SyFy Wire, series executive producer Dave Filoni first penned a script featuring the Tuskens using some type of signage, which led to Kotsur being hired as a consultant and eventual actor for the project.

Despite the "breakout performance" framing of his role in newly minted Best Picture winner "CODA," Kotsur has actually been acting for years. He has worked extensively in deaf theater productions, including for the Deaf West Theatre, which is working on adapting "CODA" into a musical. Along with "The Mandalorian," he's guest-starred in shows like "Scrubs" and "Criminal Minds," and has also appeared in movies, even directing the feature film "No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie."

Throughout award season, Kotsur has communicated eloquently about how meaningful deaf representation is on screen. When interviewed about his "Mandalorian" role back in 2020, the actor implored general audiences to request consistent deaf representation. "I hope that you keep telling Disney + that you want to see more sign language," he said. "I hope that the producers keep an open mind because this is just the beginning." Just the beginning, indeed. While Kotsur was sweeping the Best Supporting Actor category in pretty much every award show out there, the Tusken Raiders popped up in a second season episode of "The Mandalorian" that saw Mando once again using their specific language–thanks to Kotsur's creative work.