Viola Davis On #OscarsSoWhite: “Openness More Important Than Boycotting … Diversity Isn't A Trending Topic”

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 SAG Awards 2016 logoas 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.”

    1. A truely talented ACTOR
      can always get work acting,
      regardless of race.
      What people object to is a forced hiring to meet a quota, regardless of talent, and possibly making a project unwatchable.

  1. Have Shonda start producing movies because she seems to know how to create a diverse cast & script. Not just African Americans but Hispanics, Asians, LGBT etc

  2. Viola is lucky to be in the TV biz, where the name of the game is simply getting an audience, and if the audience is more diverse, the programming follows (or jumps ahead, in the case of shows like Orange is the New Black). But movies are in two camps: the franchise blockbusters, that hoover up the cash but don’t get nominated for the “real” awards; and Oscar-bait, aimed at pleasing a voting audience of old white men.

    The former is more diverse than the latter but you still won’t see Oscar Isaac on stage for Star Wars although he’ll be on stage for practically everything else he does.

    1. Isaac has great chances with A Foreigner, if Gomez-Rejon can pull off a small-scale Argo if not Lumet-lite.

      Preliminary steps have been taken to remedy “a voting audience of old white men”, to much hubbub in spite of Gregory Peck doing the same 42 years ago.

      Complacency is easy. Conscious, conscientious choice to gauge and keep apace with public tastes isn’t.

  3. Racial diversity in the motion picture industry is a complete non-issue. African Americans comprise ~12% of the US population and ~12% of the movie ticket buying public while Caucasians comprise ~62 of the population and movie ticket buying public. Movies are a business and as such must appeal to their target market and existing customer base. Nearly 2/3 of the population and target market are Caucasian and the motion picture industry has to produce product that matches that demographic if they want to make a profit and survive. From a business perspective, it wouldn’t make any sense to produce a mix of films where more than 12% of the total target the African American demographic.

    Based upon the percentage of the population and movie going public that African Americans comprise, I’d say their current presence in films is probably proportional if not excessive.

    1. I see comments like and I’m left scratching my head. Granted the number is right, but it still doesn’t make sense. I’m sure white people can watch blacks and other minorities in a leading role on film.

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