"The Mandalorian" recruited a Deaf actor to create the Tusken Raiders' sign language

The season 2 premiere of The Mandalorian, "The Marshall," saw Mando returning once again to Tatooine, where he teamed up with Timothy Olyphant's Sexy Beard In Second Hand Boba Fett armor to convince some Tusken Raiders to help them kill a Krayt dragon.

Mando had previously interacted with some Tusken Raiders in the season 1 episode "The Gunslinger" — and it was in that first appearance that Disney recruited Deaf actor Troy Kotsur to bring some linguistic clarity to the sign language that helps them all communicate. That same Tusken Sign Language was then used again for "The Marshall." This brought consistency to the detailed world-building, yes, but it also brought consistency to the respect paid to Deaf actors, and people who rely on different means of communication. And that's pretty cool.

Kotsur spoke in ASL with the Daily Moth back in January 2020 about his experience in creating Tusken Sign Language:

 RENCA DUNN: Kotsur mentioned that when the team got script, it mentioned sign language. One hearing person on the team knows sign language and that person mentioned that a deaf person should consult the sign language and become the role of being a Tusken Raider. Kotsur said that this is a good example for why it is important to have sign language classes for hearing people so they can become our allies for various opportunities out in the world.

 We were curious about how Kotsur developed Tusken Sign Language. 

 TROY KOTSUR: I did research on the culture and environment of Tusken Raiders. I researched on the desert called "sand people." That is what Luke Skywalker calls them "sand people."  Anyway, my goal was to avoid ASL. I made sure it became Tusken Sign Language based on their culture and environment.

RENCA DUNN: Kotsur shared what the sign name for Mandalorian is. 

 TROY KOTSUR: (shows sign for Mandalorian). It's based on the helmet and the "M" handshape. 

I really enjoyed the postcolonial approach that The Mandalorian took in the Season 2 premiere — how it explored the impacts of imperial occupations, and how sometimes power vacuums can make that even worse, and also how it treated the Tusken Raiders like a normal group of indigenous people with their own society, who are happy to live beside invaders but also fed up with being disrespected by them. The fact that this much forethought was put into their language makes me appreciate the episode even more.

Deaf actor Troy Kotsur in Star Wars: The Mandalorian [Daily Moth]

Image: Ashley Buttle / Flickr (CC 2.0)