Awards season is building to its biggest night, with the 89th annual Academy Awards fast approaching. Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed their list of nominees for 2017 and they should be able to avoid the same #OscarsSoWhite backlash that was experienced last year. That is in part because Viola Davis was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her work in Fences, which makes her the most nominated black actress in the history of the Academy Awards.
With her latest nomination, Viola Davis has now been nominated for three Academy Awards, marking the first time an African-American actress has ever accomplished that. Win or lose, with the nomination, she has cemented her place in the Oscar history books. Speaking with the Los Angeles Times after the Academy Award Nominations were released this morning, Viola Davis praised Denzel Washington for directing Fences and thanked the Academy. Here is what she had to say.
"Thank you to the Academy for recognizing this extraordinary, important film and my work in it. Thank you, Denzel, for being at the helm!"
Viola Davis has been getting a ton of praise and recognition for her role in Fences leading up to the Oscar nominations and she is the likely favorite to win the Award next month, especially after winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress recently. She had quite a bit of preparation for the role, since she and Denzel Washington also performed the stage play on Broadway, and she was awarded a Tony for her work in that show. So, she was already very familiar with the part and had proved she could deliver on an Oscar-worthy level. Viola Davis has some pretty heavy competition in the Best Supporting Actress category, though. Also nominated are Naomie Harris for Moonlight, Nicole Kidman for Lion, Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures and Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea.
Last year, the Academy Awards were heavily criticized for their lack of diversity. In 2016, no African-Americans were nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress, which prompted social media users to call attention to it with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and led some professionals in the industry to boycott the event. Looking at the Best Supporting Actress category alone for 2017, it is clear that isn't the case this year. That is not to say the only reason for the nominations had to do with the backlash from last year, because the actresses honored in that category this year are very clearly deserving of the praise. Other categories for this year's Academy Awards are also displaying some diversity, with the Best Cinematography category making history by giving Bradford Young a nomination for his work on Arrival, making him the first black American to be nominated in that category.
Viola Davis was previously nominated for her work in 2009's Doubt, for which she was nominated for Best Supported Actress. She also earned a Best Actress nomination in 2012 for The Help. Not for nothing, but her co-star from that movie Emma Stone is nominated for Best Actress this year for her work in La La Land and is the favorite to win. Maybe she learned a thing or two from Viola Davis on The Help. Viola Davis may not yet be on the level of someone like Meryl Streep, who scored a record 20th Oscar nomination this year, but she is now a powerhouse and trailblazer in her own right. Hopefully, she can get her first win for Fences this year. The 89th annual Academy Awards are set to air on February 26 at 7 p.m. EST on ABC.