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Talk about an awards season closer!
On Tuesday afternoon, as the final round of Academy Awards voting wound to a close, the principal cast of best picture Oscar nominee CODA — Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant — was not on the campaign trail in any traditional sense, but was, of all places, at the White House.
This much has already been disclosed on social media by Matlin and reporters who spotted them on the White House grounds. But The Hollywood Reporter can now exclusively report how the trip came about and what occurred while Team CODA was at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden both watched CODA and loved it. The cast then received an invitation from the White House to come meet with the White House Domestic Policy Council and Office of Public Engagement to discuss inclusion, access and employment for Deaf Americans, as well as have a meet-and-greet with Dr. Biden.
So, on Tuesday, after paying a long-promised visit to D.C.’s Gallaudet University, a research university for the deaf and hard of hearing (which counts Kotsur and Durant as alums and Matlin as an honorary trustee), doing a Q&A with students and meeting with university president Roberta Cordano, the quartet headed over to the White house.
Following the pre-scheduled meeting with the DPC and OPE, the group was offered a private tour of the White House, during which they were surprised at the Entrance Hall — also known as the Grand Foyer of the State Floor — by the United States Marine Band, which performed “You’re All I Need to Get By,” a song prominently featured in the film. While collecting themselves emotionally, the three deaf castmembers placed their hands on a piano so that they could feel the vibrations of the music, and Jones sang along. THR has obtained never-before-seen footage of this interaction (see below), courtesy of Matlin’s longtime interpreter, Jack Jason.
A subsequent stop on the tour was the historic White House screening room, where, the cast learned, CODA had been screened for White House staff days earlier and played through the roof. After snapping photos there, they completed their tour, then had what they had been led to believe would be a brief meet-and-greet with Dr. Biden.
That was exciting enough, but then came another surprise: Dr. Biden asked them to follow her — and walked them directly into the Oval Office, where they were warmly received by and posed for photographs with President Biden. Matlin has said she was “blown away” when both Bidens told the cast how much they loved the film and its themes of family and authenticity.
Thus ended a most thrilling day at the tail end of a most thrilling season, at the tail end of a most thrilling journey for CODA, which started at Sundance in January 2021 and will come to an end, one way or another, on Sunday evening.
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