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'CODA' actor shares how real-life moment with daughter inspired powerful scene

The new film is a heartfelt look of what it means to grow up hearing among a deaf family.
/ Source: TODAY

Can you "hear" a song if you can't actually hear?

That's one of the many questions "CODA," a new movie for Apple TV+, is addressing — and in a new interview, star Troy Kotsur explains one of the most moving moments came from real life.

Troy Kotsur and Emilia Jones play father and daughter in "CODA."Apple TV

In the film, Kotsur, an actor and director who's been deaf since birth, plays the father in a family whose daughter is the only hearing member — and who wants to make singing and music her career. To understand what this passion means to her, in one scene he rests his hands on her neck to feel the vibrations of her voice.

"He's kinda like a papa bear," Kotsur signs in an interview with NPR. "There's humor, and that bond is very tight."

That's something that Kotsur did with his own daughter. "A long time ago when she was in kindergarten, she sang for a class performance," hesays. "I asked, 'Can I just kind of feel your neck?' And it was very cute."

Then came "CODA," which made a big splash at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. "All those years later, the movie 'CODA' was a real flashback where I did the same thing," he adds.

Emilia Jones' character wants to make music her career in “CODA.”Apple TV

Deaf actors haven't had much of a role in many of Hollywood's movies, or on TV, though that may be changing. Back in 1987, Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, earned an Oscar for her performance in "Children of a Lesser God." Then last year, Riz Ahmed (a hearing actor) earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in "Sound of Metal," where he played a drummer slowly going deaf. And Kotsur himself appeared in "The Mandalorian," as a Tusken Raider — a people in the "Star Wars" universe among whom sign language is the often a means of communication.

Appreciating his own daughter's musical talents has gone beyond just "feeling" her sing, he explained in the interview. "Now my daughter is learning how to play guitar," he said. "So sometimes I'll just touch her guitar so that I can feel her strumming."

"CODA" is now available for streaming on Apple TV+.