Backstage, four-time SAG Award winner Viola Davis addressed Hollywood’s diversity debate head-on at the SAG Awards tonight, saying, “Openness is more important than boycotting” the Oscars. And by that, she meant that audiences –Academy voters, everyone — should be more open-minded to African-American stories “because they’re everyone’s stories.”
“You need the audience to put their money down to see movies like Dope, Selma, Straight Outta Compton and the works of such directors as Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels and Spike Lee,” said Davis, who — along with Idris Elba, Queen Latifah and Uzo Aduba — was one of four black actors to take home individual SAG Awards tonight. Promptly during the show, the Twitter hashtag #SAGsSoBlack starting trending and rivaling #OscarsSoWhite.
“I think people should do what they want to do at the Oscars,” said the two-time Oscar nominee about the boycott that has been raised by Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith, “but more importantly, when they walk into a theater they need to be open to the experience of the story. I think sometimes people feel stories about people of color aren’t inclusive. They’re very much inclusive. The works of August Wilson, which made my career, are everyone’s stories.”
Davis further explained that actors, regardless of their color, should never feel as though they’re limited by the character description on the page. Talent will always overrule that and create opportunity. “We’ve become a society of trending topics,” she said. “Diversity isn’t a trending topic. I’ve always considered myself an actor ever since I got my Equity card in 1988. I never put a limitation on myself. I felt I could play Chekhov, Shakespeare, August Wilson — no matter what I saw going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art. And the actors of color don’t put limitations on themselves. … They’ll find a way to be excellent.”