10 Actors and Actresses of Color Who Deserved an Oscar Nod in 2017
The Academy has made real progress since last year's #oscarssowhite fiasco. After a bevy of criticism, Ruth Negga, Denzel Washington, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris and Viola Davis all received nominations in 2017. Yet the film with the most nominations—"La La Land"—was one of Hollywood's whitest productions, so it's safe to say voters still have a ways to go.
Here are 10 performances by performers of color that were snubbed this year.
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
1. David Oyelowo, A United Kingdom
David Oyelowo plays the first Botswanan president, Seretse Khama, who faced criticism for marrying an Englishwoman, Ruth Williams. The U.K. biopic was released nearly a year before "Loving," which profiled a famous mixed-race American couple.
"People of colour have been expunged from Britain’s history," Oyelowo said at a symposium on black acting. "One of the best ways to illustrate how integrated we are historically is to have a piece of entertainment that people can also learn from while they are watching it. That is why I am hellbent on period dram; we need the context so we can build, and then go on to grow."
2. Nate Parker, Birth of a Nation
Nate Parker plays slave preacher Nat Turner in this period drama set in 1831. While initially setting a festival record at Sundance, the film quickly became embroiled in controversy on account of college-era rape allegations against Parker, who also directed the film.
Shawn Edwards, co-founder of the African American Film Critics Association, blamed the dismal box office returns on the subject matter as well.
"If the director of 'Avengers 2' had been accused of rape when he was in college, it wouldn’t matter at all because the general public is going to be locked in and go see that because it’s a blockbuster,” Edwards said. “But when you have a fringe film like 'The Birth of a Nation,' the average person really hadn’t heard of the movie until it was associated with the word rape."
3. Gael GarcÃa Bernal, Neruda
Gael GarcÃa Bernal plays Oscar Peluchonneau, a police detective for the authoritarian government on the hunt for Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in 1948.
Bernal believes he would have been a communist like Neruda had he been alive then.
“That (political divide) is a very specific thing to grab onto from those days,” he said. “Another thing from those days was the space that the poet occupied in politics. Everywhere in the world, there were poets, artists, thinkers, philosophers, [and] sociologists that occupied a very prominent role in politics. … That seems so far away now. These people were part of the public discussion. That was something very appealing from those days. And it’s kind of romantic in a way, as well.”
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
4. Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures
Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine Johnson, the pioneering NASA scientist behind the Friendship 7 space mission in 1962. The biopic of the relatively unknown figure also starred Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer as Johnson's coworkers, both with their own groundbreaking missions. Spencer was nominated by the Academy for best supporting actress, but Henson came up empty.
“I was hurt [when I read the script] because growing up as a young girl there was an understanding that math and science were for boys, so I immediately felt like a dream had been stolen from me,” she explained. “After I got the script, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s horrible.’ Because what if I was allowed to dream to be a rocket scientist. Who knows where my life would be.”
The actress then made it her mission to be a part of "Hidden Figures" and become an influencer for young girls everywhere. "If a boy can do it, you can do it too," she said. "A brilliant mind does not have a color or a gender.”
5. Sasha Lane, American Honey
Lane plays runaway hustler Star in director Andrea Arnold's ode to 21st-century youth. The 19-year-old was picked out of a crowd by the veteran director on a Panama City, Florida beach. The impulsive first-time actor immediately related to her character.
“I come from a place where I didn’t have a lot of opportunities," she told the Guardian. "A lot of people would say: ‘You can’t do this or you can’t do that.’ So meeting Andrea… I literally said: ‘I have nothing left to lose, I have to put my trust in you. She made me feel like I could.”
6. Tika Sumpter, Southside With You
Sumpter plays future first lady Michelle Obama in a fictionalized account of her first date with Barack Obama in 1989.
"You don’t see a lot of black leads in love stories, and you definitely don’t see a lot of walk and talks with black people," she remarked. Sumpter was admittedly overwhelmed by playing Michelle, having never finished school: “I’ve never been to Harvard, I’ve never been to Princeton [unlike Michelle]... But once I stripped away that ‘Michelle Obama,’ I was able to take it back to that girl from the South Side.”
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
7. Diego Luna, Rogue One
Diego Luna plays Captain Cassian Andor, an intelligence officer for the Rebel Alliance opposite Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). The film battled Hidden Figures for the top box office spot earlier this month before the latter surpassed it on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Luna joked that his whole family went crazy buying tickets to celebrate his triumph and ended up crashing Fandango:
"I’m sorry. It’s weird Fandango wasn’t ready for my family," he remarked. "It’s my cousins in both sides of the border that went crazy."
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
8. Cynthia Addai-Robinson, The Accountant
Addai-Robinson plays Marybeth Medina, a data analyst blackmailed by Raymond King (J.K. Simmons) and tasked with identifying the accountant (Ben Affleck), whom King seeks to arrest.
"A lot of it starts with people behind the scenes. The more diversity you have in the area of decision makers, the better your chances of seeing more representation," she said in an October 2016 interview. "Film has catching up to do, but I'd like to remain optimistic that we're in a forward motion."
9. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Miss Sloane
Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Esme Manucharian, a lobbyist for a gun control group joined by their former opponent, Elizabeth Sloane, (Jessica Chastain) at the start of the film.
"I think it's great to see a Bechdel test on screen, and we’re passing with flying colors. And it’s a group of women that are not competing with each other, or over a man," she explained in a joint interview with co-star Chastain. "I recognize these women, which is so nice to see."
10. Golshifteh Farahani, Paterson
Golshifteh Farahani plays Paterson's (Adam Driver) wife Laura, an aspiring country singer who lights up the lead's otherwise melancholy world. Farahani has starred in nearly 40 feature films, and unlike her character, is a lifelong globetrotter.
“There are places in the world that somehow look like each other," she told Vogue. "The same person you meet at Burning Man, you meet in Ibiza, you meet in Goa or Bali or Bahrain, Australia, Montauk, Sri Lanka—it’s the same group of people, you just meet them all over the place."