“Till” star Danielle Deadwyler joined director Chinonye Chukwu in blasting Hollywood’s racism and misogyny after last month’s Academy Award nominations, which saw Oscar voters overlook not only their film but a number of acclaimed movies by and about Black women.
“We’re talking about people who perhaps chose not to see the film,” the actor said on an episode of the British film and TV podcast “Kermode and Mayo’s Take,” released Friday. She went on to suggest that “misogynoir” — hatred for or prejudice against Black women — was a critical factor.
“It comes in all kinds of ways, whether it’s direct or indirect. It impacts who we are. They did the critical assessment. I think the question is more intent on people who are living in whiteness, white people’s assessment of the spaces that they are privileged by,” she said.
Podcast co-host Simon Mayo had asked Deadwyler if she agreed with Chukwu’s response to the nominations on Jan. 24, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences largely ignored films like “Till,” Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King” and Alice Diop’s “Saint Omer.” That day, Chukwu wrote in an Instagram post, “We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women.”
“Assuredly, that’s what that is,” Deadwyler said. “This is the thing: If it existed in a governmental capacity, right, and it can exist in a societal capacity, be it global or national, then it has had its residual effects. It is in our quotidian life. It is in our industries. It is a rampant thing, right? Everyone has to assess and investigate, source out and make more equitable the spaces which have not been.”
Deadwyler pointed out how, in 1940, “Gone With the Wind” star Hattie McDaniel became the first Black woman to win an Oscar — while having to sit in the very back of the hotel restaurant where the ceremony was held because the business did not allow Black people.
“Nobody is absolved of not participating in racism and not knowing that there is a possibility of its lingering effect on the spaces and the institutions that you’ve created,” Deadwyler continued.
(Listen to Deadwyler’s comments, first reported by Entertainment Weekly, starting just after the 46-minute mark here.)
Throughout this year’s awards season, the “Station Eleven” and “Harder They Fall” star’s performance as civil rights icon Mamie Till-Mobley garnered widespread critical acclaim and many accolades, including a Gotham Award and nods from the Screen Actors Guild Awards and British Academy Film Awards.
But on Oscar nomination morning, the motion picture academy did not recognize her or “The Woman King” star Viola Davis, who was also widely expected to be named. Just one Black woman was nominated for an acting Oscar this year: Angela Bassett for her supporting role in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” — three decades after receiving her first Oscar nomination for 1993’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”
In the 94-year history of the Oscars, only a single Black woman has won Best Actress: Halle Berry, more than two decades ago. No Black women has ever been nominated for Best Director. This year, many had hoped Prince-Bythewood would be the one to finally end the drought. However, despite its technical precision as a historical epic — a genre the Oscars often adore when the film is about white characters — “The Woman King” received zero nominations in any category.
Earlier this week, Prince-Bythewood also spoke publicly about Hollywood’s continued mistreatment of Black women. In extensive remarks to The Hollywood Reporter, she made candid observations about the state of the industry for Black directors, including calling out certain academy voters for refusing to give her movie a fair shot.
“It’s a difficult thing to know, for every Black filmmaker and definitely every Black female filmmaker, that your work is not valued in the same way,” Prince-Bythewood said.
“This is a systemic American problem, which is why this felt so insidious and large. It’s tough to enter something that’s supposed to be judged on merit, but you know it’s not a meritocracy. I want our industry to be better. What does ‘for your consideration’ mean when you don’t press play?”