Paul Raci's big break as an Oscar nominee coincides with a very special day for the Chicago actor.
That's because as he waits to find out if he has won the prestigious award for his role in "Sound of Metal," a film centered on hearing loss, Raci will also be celebrating a day he has honored for decades - Mother Father Deaf Day.
The day, which celebrates deaf parents and falls on the last Sunday in April, is one that Raci holds dear, even in wake of his parents' passing.
"Is that something for synchronicity?" Raci said, adding that his family honors the day every year in celebration of his late parents.
Raci, now nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Joe in the "Sound of Metal," said growing up, he learned how to sign before he learned how to speak.
"The deaf community in Chicago really taught me what unconditional love really is and I'm just forever grateful for that, for the deaf heart that they gave me," he said.
But growing up at a young age with deaf parents, he said, wasn't easy.
"When you're a kid, you don't know what's going on... you know? When you're negotiating contracts for a car or telling the gas company, 'Please don't turn off the electricity or the gas because we're gonna, we're a little bit behind' - putting a kid in that position is not exactly a good thing," he said. "And kids today are lucky because they've got professional interpreters that do that, they have technology that they can make their own phone calls with, you know. So, it's different than when I was a kid."
"You realize later on in life that it was such a blessing for me," he added.
Raci has since made a career out of signing in more ways than one.
Outside of it being a major part of his role in the film, which is now nominated for six Oscars, Raci works a day job interpreting in courts in Los Angeles. A job he worked as recently as Monday and said he has no plans of quitting despite his newfound stardom.
He also performs in a Black Sabbath cover band, where he sings and signs at the same time.
"When we do gigs, you know, I have 40 to 50 deaf people, they show up from the ages of 21 to 50 or 60," Raci, who epitomizes the look of a rocker with his long hair and effortless style, told "Chicago Today" as he sat in front of a wall of guitars. "Because they, the lyrics to Black Sabbath are prolific and in sign language they're just beautiful."
When it came to auditioning for his pivotal role in "Sound of Metal," however, Raci's agent had to speak up on his behalf.
"I guess the story is my agent did call to check up and say, 'Hey did you look at Paul Raci's tape and they're like, 'Well, we're just inundated. We're gonna go with a name,' which is the story of my life," Raci said. "They're gonna go this way, they're gonna go that way, they're gonna go the other way, but not my way, but you know, I mean, so you just keep on going. But she said, 'Please look at the tape.' They said, 'Oh, you know,' and then five minutes later, my agent got a call and they said, 'You know what? We looked at the tape, the director wants to talk to Paul.'"
Sharing a powerful story of how a drummer navigates life while losing his hearing, Raci said he knew from the beginning the film was special.
"During the filming, I knew something good was happening, there's something special was happening," he said. "I had no idea that it would even reach the heights that it has. This is insane."
But as he celebrates a day routinely dedicated to his deaf parents, the moment has come full circle.
"Being able to represent my community, my language, my parents who are no longer here - but I think they'd be pretty proud to see this kind of a groundbreaking film - yeah, it's really awesome," he said.