'CODA' goes for authenticity with deaf cast in new family drama

The family comedy-drama has been described as groundbreaking -- not only for its story, but for its authentic casting too.

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Saturday, August 14, 2021
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The cast of "CODA" talks to ABC7's George Pennacchio about their groundbreaking new film.

There's a new coming-of-age film about a teenager, her dream, her family and her future. The teenager is a CODA (an acronym for a child of deaf adults), which is also the name of the groundbreaking movie.

"CODA" tells the story of Ruby, a teen who doesn't want to go into the family fishing business. Instead, she wants to go to college to pursue her dreams of singing, but feels pressure as the interpreter for her mom, dad and brother, who are deaf.

The actors who play her family are also deaf, including Oscar winner Marlee Matlin, who is especially proud of the authentic casting.

"All the messages that are coming across, all the authenticity that's being played out on screen is just one beautiful package and I'm so excited for the audience to see this movie," Matlin said.

"It's a universal story," Matlin added. "A lot of people never would think about deaf families experiencing life the same way that you might all -- that we raise our kids the same way you raise your kids, that we are families who just happen to be deaf."

Co-star Daniel Durant, who plays her son, said, "In Deaf culture, we like to tell a lot of stories and jokes that are very visual. It's very expressive. It's almost like poetry in a way. And I feel like it's kind of eye candy for viewers who get to see all these aspects of language they might not get to see."

Troy Kotsur, the father in the film, said it was the experience of a lifetime making it.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to give people a sneak peek into what our culture is like," Kotsur said. "It's their opportunity and I think Hollywood will be enthused. And maybe that'll open doors for the future as well."

Emilia Jones, who plays the lead, was 17 when she got the part. Then, she got lessons in singing and in American Sign Language (ASL). Her movie family lovingly helped her every step of the way.

"A: The most incredible actors I've ever worked with," Jones said. "And B: They are so kind and welcomed me with open arms and took me under their wing and helped me grow with my ASL."

"CODA" is now playing in theaters.