It would be natural to assume that last year’s high-profile #OscarsSoWhite controversy — which erupted after not a single person of colour was nominated in any of the major acting categories at either the 2015 or 2016 Academy Awards — had something to do with this year’s far more diverse pool of nominees, with seven minority actors receiving nominations this year.
However, one of those nominees points out that last year’s backlash really had little to do with this year’s diversity.
According to Octavia Spencer, nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for her work in “Hidden Figures”, there’s not as much of a cause and effect as one would imagine, noting in an interview with Deadline that “when you know how movies are made, the explosion of films with people of colour is not a reaction to #OscarsSoWhite.”
As Spencer explains, this year’s nominated films were in production long before last year’s controversy; if anything, this year’s trend toward more diversity is indicative of a larger trend that goes far beyond #OscarsSoWhite.
“I know that I have projects coming up, and I know that Viola [Davis] and Taraji [P. Henson] have projects coming up,” says Spencer. “I know Idris Elba is headlining a few things, and I hope Mahershala Ali and André Holland and David Oyelowo have things coming up. And also, you know, I’m taking a more active role in producing, and so is Viola. I can’t see this year being an isolated thing, but then, I thought Hillary was going to be president, so I can’t tell you for sure.”
However, she admits that “the tide has changed, but we still have a ways to go, because they still aren’t inclined to greenlight a movie that’s starring a person of colour, without a long list of white box-office people. Are we where we should be? No. We have some ground still to cover, but I’m optimistic because of the year we’re having.”
Adds Spencer: “It’s an under-served audience, so what I’m hoping is they stop spending a hundred million dollars on things, and then not having enough money to fund movies like [‘Hidden Figures’], because then, as women, we start having to say, ‘Here’s what you’re going to have to do with your purchasing power: Stop going to see these movies that they’re paying hundreds of millions of dollars for that are failing, and put your money behind projects that show a more diverse cast, in front of and behind the scenes.'”