Kemp Powers debuted his original play One Night In Miami back in 2013. Eight years later and the scribe is deep into the Oscars race, receiving a best adapted screenplay nomination for a play he never envisioned for the big screen.
“You’re talking to the new guy here, I’ve never had any experience with anything Oscar-related,” Powers told Deadline on Monday shortly after learning he had been nominated.
Powers, whose Soul also nabbed a best animated feature nomination, was among the only nominees receiving recognition for his work on the Amazon Studios drama. Leslie Odom Jr., who stars as Sam Cooke alongside Aldis Hodge, Kinglsey Ben-Adir and Ei Goree, snagged two nominations for One Night In Miami on Monday morning – best supporting actor and best original song. However missing from the Oscars mix was director Regina King, who made her directorial debut with the film adaptation of Powers’ play.
“I think Regina King pulled off one of the best directing jobs of the year so I was really, really hoping to see her get recognized because none of this would be where it is without her,” Powers said of King’s snub. “You wouldn’t be seeing my words, you wouldn’t be seeing that performance. she is the one who pulled it all together and delivered it.”
He continued: “I would be lying if I didn’t’ say there was a certain amount of disappointment that our leader didn’t get recognized for her work. I think a lot of the people in the business, they know how great a job she did and the fact that she was part of conversation acknowledges that. If i could have chose one person from our film to get recognized for something I would have chosen Regina.”
King, Powers said, was among the key figures that helped him overcome imposter syndrome while working on the now Oscar-nominated screenplay. Also encouraging and helping quell insecurities were the stars and producers, who he said “saw something special” in his screenplay and trusted him throughout the process. “That’s always a big source of energy when it comes to these things,” he said.
While the Oscar nomination marks a first and exciting moment for Powers’ career, he said the current awards seasons comes “off one of the strangest years,” where nearly all of the major films in contention reached audiences via streaming platforms thanks to coronavirus-prompted theater shutdowns – from One Night In Miami through Amazon Prime Video to Nomadland through Hulu and Mank through Netflix. Coincidentally, this year’s slate of nominees seem to be one of more diverse in recent years, with Chloé Zhao, Riz Ahmed, Viola Davis and Steven Yeun all making Oscars history with their nominations.
“Is this a different group of films because of that? I don’t know. Let’s see where we are when theaters are back open at full capacity,” Powers said. “As the Academy and these groups diversify maybe [more representation] will be possible going forward.”