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Deanne Bray-Kotsur - Sue Thomas F.B.Eye Actress


Updated June 26, 2014

Deanne Bray Kotsur and Her Husband Troy Kotsur, with cake on faces.

Deanne Bray Kotsur and Her Husband Troy Kotsur. Unknown covering on mouths.

Photo © Deanne Bray-Kotsur
Deanne Bray-Kotsur, an actress who is deaf that had starred in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye, is married to another actor, Troy Kotsur, who is also deaf. On Sue Thomas, she played a deaf FBI employee based on a real-life person named Sue Thomas who had really worked for the FBI, aided by her hearing dog, Levi. Bray-Kotsur's husband had also appeared on the program. Then known as simply Deanne Bray, she was the first deaf person to star in a TV program.

Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye originally aired on the Pax Channel from October 2002 to May 2005. In April 2009, Sue Thomas returned to Animal Planet with a two-hour premiere, then aired Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT (8 p.m. CT/MT).

About.com did an email interview with Bray-Kotsur as follows:

Q: How do you feel about having been the first deaf person to be the star of a TV program?

A: I didn't know I was the star of F.B.Eye until I looked for my name at the bottom of the call sheet expecting to be actor number 22 or 17...

As my eyes continued to go up to the top of the list, there it was...
1) Deanne Bray........ Sue Thomas.

Actor number one??? I was shocked.

I guess that was a habit thinking of mine, "There's no such thing as a deaf character being the lead." Things have changed with that show! Thanks to the real Sue Thomas who encouraged the writers and producers to find a deaf actress to portray her. "A hearing actress will not completely understand my path of silence," the real Sue explained.

Also, I didn't know the show would end up being a TV series. I believed it was a two-hour TV movie. A TV series?! That's even better! I had a fun ride.

Q: What was your favorite episode of Sue Thomas? What was Troy's favorite episode?

A from Deanne: My favorite episode of Sue Thomas is the pilot (the first episode) because many of the scenes shot were from the real Sue Thomas's life and really happened:

  • The dog jumping in the bathtub to let Sue know someone is knocking on the door
  • Being lost in class while the teacher teaches and the kids making fun of her
  • Her ice-skating experience [and the death of her friend]
  • Her journey working with the FBI from a tedious fingerprinting job to becoming part of the surveillance team.

A from Troy: My favorite was "The Signing," episode #6. That was an episode that had lots of signing in the show. "This show was the first time the series introduced my character, Troy Meyer, who was an auto thief. Then Sue Thomas changed Troy by guiding him in the right direction in making a better purpose for his life. I had tons of fun working with my wife on analyzing the scenes, working on ASL translations and just supporting each other 110%. This was a different, and rich experience for me, working on the set with the cast/crew. My role became a recurring role. I loved the F.B.Eye team and have had fantastic experiences in interacting with them and learned so much from them."

Q: What was the most difficult episode to do of Sue Thomas? (In terms of the topic or being challenged by deafness)

A: In general, the toughest scenes I had to do as an actress in all episodes were the bullpen scenes where we had so much coverage to do with a big cast. The crew had to be careful in shooting shots that were clear for Sue Thomas to grasp information from reading lips. I often wished the writing would have Sue out of the office when we have big meetings like that.

If you wondered why Sue did not have an interpreter at work in the show, it's because the real Sue chose not [to] use interpreters at work. She [was] independent and [wanted] to be on her own. I just tried my best in making it as real as I [could] even though the shots may not be flattering. [For example], such as squinting my eyes which is how I concentrate real hard in obtaining information from reading lips. Not easy!

Sometimes while walking down the hallway, the new actors on the show who sometimes [did] not look at me because they'd rather have their faces shown on camera so I turn[ed] to see their lips but the camera shoots the back of my head! I didn't care if my face was shown or not because I really wanted to make it as real as I [could]. The writers eventually wrote lines where Sue's coworkers signed or fingerspelled a word or two to fill in the gaps of what Sue misses. Or Sue would repeat what they [said] to doublecheck.

Q: Do you and Troy have the same "deaf background," meaning school for the deaf, same college, etc?

A: Troy went to Phoenix Day School for the Deaf in Arizona all his life except the last two high school years when he mainstreamed because he wanted more challenge in sports. He went to Gallaudet University but did not graduate due to being involved in professional theatre. His hearing parents and two brothers took classes to learn sign language when Troy was a toddler. He had communication at home.

I mainstreamed with a group of deaf and hard of hearing students at the school most of my life. I went to Washington State School for the Deaf in 8th grade and returned to mainstreamed school. I grew up with a single father who signed words but [was] not fluent in ASL. Two blocks down from my home, I spent a lot of time with a deaf family, the Bisharas, who exposed me to ASL and Deaf culture. My father worked long hours making TV shows. I considered myself bilingual growing up. I moved in with my mother at age 13 and my mother chose not to learn how to sign.

Q: How did you meet Troy?

A: We met for the first time in 1993 in Connecticut while I was visiting a friend at the National Theatre of the Deaf. Troy was part of the theatre company for two years. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1994 where I lived and [we] worked together in several productions. We didn't click because I didn't believe in falling for someone while working on stage. Over time, our friendship grew from there. We clicked in 1997 and got married in 2001.

Q: Do you have a hearing dog yourself?

A: I never had a hearing dog but the deaf family I grew up with had one, named Snoopy, back in 1980. Troy would like to have one someday.

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