After two years in which the Academy Awards failed to nominate a single black actor in any of the four acting categories, the nominees for the 2017 Oscars are notably more diverse. A black actor is nominated in every acting category -- Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress -- in the same year for the first time in Academy history. The closest to the record has been three nominations spread across three of the acting categories, which was last achieved in 2013.
This year, Denzel Washington (Fences, Actor), Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Supporting Actor), Ruth Negga (Loving, Actress), Viola Davis (Fences, Supporting Actress), Naomie Harris (Moonlight, Supporting Actress) and Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, Actress) were all recognized.
The recognition of Davis, Harris and Spencer in the Supporting Actress category is the first time multiple black nominees have been nominated in that category since Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey were both recognized for The Color Purple in 1985.
Following his Golden Globe nomination, Ali told ET that he hoped recognition for Moonlight as well as Hidden Figures and Fences, all of which scored multiple nominations at the Golden Globes and Oscars, was “a start to something that becomes really normal.”
“I would love to see people of color continue to get opportunities and have opportunities to do projects that are action blockbusters as well as being a part of projects that are art house and indie or projects that in some way find themselves around and in the conversation every awards season,” Ali said. “We want to exist in all platforms and we want to see diversity and see people being included on every level. I hope that this is a real beginning for that.”
Diversity wasn’t limited to the acting categories. Moonlight earned eight nominations in several major categories, including directing and writing, while Fences earned four and Hidden Figures scored three. All three are up for Best Picture.
Additionally, Ava DuVernay earned her first Oscar nomination for 13th, a documentary about the 13th amendment, after being snubbed for her work on Selma.
When asked at 2017 Film Independent Filmmaker Grant and Spirit Award Nominees Brunch about #OscarsSoWhite and what might happen this year, the director told ET, “They’re going to pick who they’re going to pick. They’re going to do what they want to do.”
“We’re going make our movies regardless and it’s all good,” she concluded.