The Mandalorian’s Tusken Scout Won an Oscar

If you’re a Star Wars fan but didn’t think Troy Kotsur looked familiar when he got up to accept his Best Supporting Actor Oscar on Sunday night, don’t feel bad. Kotsur played an important role in The Mandalorian‘s first season episode “The Gunslinger,” but we never saw his face. He’s the Tusken who communicated with the Mandalorian using Tusken Sign Language—a language Kotsur created.

Kotsur is the first Deaf man to win an Oscar, and the first Deaf actor to appear in Star Wars. He won for his role in CODA, in which he plays the father of Ruby (Emilia Jones), the only hearing child in her family.

Around the time of his Mandalorian appearance, Kotsur told The Daily Moth that he’d been a Star Wars fan since childhood:

Eight years old! I have been a fan since that age. Remember that in the year of 1977, technology was limited and accessibility for Deaf people were limited, but that Star Wars movie blew my mind. It changed my life. Why? It was like “wet-eyes” – so visual for me. For the first 5 minutes, remember the opening of that movie? The spaceships shooting, the robots, C-3P0 scrambling, and all of that overwhelmed my eyes. I watched it 28 times. I watched the movie Star Wars: A New Hope 28 times.

Kotsur also described how he created Tusken Sign Language, which is not American Sign Language:

I did research on the culture and environment of Tusken Raiders. I researched on the desert called “sand people.” That is what Luke Skywalker calls them “sand people.” Anyway, my goal was to avoid ASL. I made sure it became Tusken Sign Language based on their culture and environment.

Kotsur’s Tusken Sign Language is also used on The Book of Boba Fett, and presumably will continue to be used in future Star Wars stories, as the franchise doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get off Tatooine. You can revisit Kotsur’s episode on Disney+, and watch CODA on Apple TV.

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