Viola Davis on #OscarsSoWhite: ‘Diversity is Not a Trending Topic’

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Actress Viola Davis weighed in on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy at Saturday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, telling reporters backstage that openness “is more important” than a boycott of the Academy Awards and lamenting what she called our “society of trending topics.”

“Diversity is not a trending topic. It’s just not,” Davis told reporters backstage after her second consecutive SAG Award win for Best Actress in a Drama Series for the hit television series How to Get Away with Murder, according to the Wrap.

“I’ve always considered myself an actor since I got my equity card in 1988,” she continued. “I’ve never put any limitations on myself. I felt like I can play… any character in Chekhov, in Shakespeare, in Miller, in August Wilson… I see myself as an actor.”

Saturday night’s SAG Awards marked a stark contrast from the controversy surrounding the Oscar nominations announced earlier this month, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) nominated exclusively white actors in top acting categories for a second consecutive year. Four black actors — Davis, Idris Elba, Uzo Aduba, and Queen Latifah — took home top prizes at Saturday night’s ceremony, and Elba kicked off the proceedings by welcoming the audience to “diverse TV.”

The diversity controversy surrounding the Oscars led some stars, including filmmaker Spike Lee and actor Will Smith, to boycott the awards show, but Davis said drawing audiences in to see black-led films is more important than sitting out any award show.

“You need the audience to put their money down to see movies like Selma, Dope, Straight Outta Compton and the works of such directors as Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels and Spike Lee,” Davis added.

“I think people should do what they want to do at the Oscars, 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.”

In an interview earlier this month at Elle‘s annual Women in Television Dinner, the two-time Oscar-nominated Davis, who became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for her role as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder last year, placed the blame for the Oscars’ lack of diversity on the machinations of the “Hollywood movie-making system.”

“The Oscars are not really the issue,” Davis said at the dinner, noting she’d be on vacation during the awards ceremony next month. “It’s a symptom of a much greater disease.”

Check out the complete list of Saturday night’s SAG Award winner here.

The 88th Academy Awards airs Sunday, February 28 on ABC.


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