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March 1, 2022 3:02 pm
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Jewish Deaf Actress Marlee Matlin and ‘CODA’ Cast Make History at SAG Awards

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Marlee Matlin (center) and the rest of the cast of “CODA” receives the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture for “CODA” at the 28th Screen Actors Guild Awards, in Santa Monica, California, US, February 27, 2022. Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

Award-winning Jewish and deaf actress Marlee Matlin and the rest of the cast of “CODA” became the first predominantly deaf ensemble to win the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture at the 28th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards on Sunday.

The “CODA” cast won out over those of  “Don’t Look Up,” “Belfast,” “House of Gucci,” and “King Richard,” who were also nominated for the award.

The original Apple TV+ film centers on Emilia Jones’ character Ruby Rossi, a child of deaf adults — known by the acronym CODA — and the only hearing member of her family. When the family’s fishing business is threatened, Ruby becomes torn between pursuing her passion for music by going to the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts and the fear of abandoning her parents. Matlin plays Ruby’s mom, Jackie.

During her acceptance speech at the SAG Awards on Sunday, Matlin, who has four children who are CODAs, said through an interpreter that she was “stunned” by the win and added, “we, deaf actors, have come a long way … this validates the fact that we, deaf actors, can work just like anybody else. We look forward to more opportunities for deaf actors [and] deaf culture.” Matlin, 55, concluded by teaching the audience how to say “I love you” in American Sign Language.

“CODA” actor Troy Kotsur was also named best male actor in a supporting role, becoming the first deaf actor to win an individual SAG award.

At the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, “CODA” won four prizes in the US dramatic competition category: the grand jury prize, the directing prize, the audience award, and a special jury prize for best ensemble. It became the first film in Sundance history to win all three top prizes in the category, according to Variety.

In 1987, Matlin became the first deaf actress to win an Oscar for her performance in the film “Children of a Lesser God.” She has also won a Golden Globe, was nominated for four Emmys and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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