“Sound of Metal” follows the story of heavy metal drummer Ruben (Riz Ahmed) who begins to lose his hearing. Stumbling upon a rural shelter for deaf recovering addicts, Ruben meets Joe (Paul Raci), a recovering alcoholic who lost his hearing in the Vietnam War. The film was named one of the 10 best films of 2020 by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review, with Ahmed and Raci winning best actor and supporting actor.

In the Variety Streaming Room, awards editor Tim Gray sat down with Raci to discuss what it was like to grow up with deaf parents, what drew him to the project and the misconceptions surrounding the deaf community.

Gray pointed out that co-writer and director Darius Marder had been developing this film for about 10 years. Raci said he joined the project late in the game, making the official deal with Marder at the Child of Deaf Adults Convention in Boston. Raised by deaf parents in Chicago, Raci attends the convention every two years since he was surrounded by the deaf community his whole life.

“American Sign Language is my native tongue,” Raci said. “That’s the first thing that I learned to communicate with. I learned English second, as a secondary language.”

While performing in the theater and taking on smaller television roles, Raci said he paid his bills as a certified court sign language interpreter in Los Angeles. Despite this, Raci said he had turned down many sign language roles because he didn’t want to be known as the “sign language guy.” This changed after reading Marder’s script, which he knew was something special.

“As Darius Marder likes to say, every actor brings a garden with him,” Raci said. “My garden is very rich and I’m grateful for that. That’s the garden that I pulled from for this role.”

Watch the full conversation above.