Richard Jenkins Humbled by Oscar Nomination for ‘The Shape of Water’ (Exclusive)

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Richard Jenkins
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner Image

Playing Giles, a closeted gay man and close friend to a mute woman, Richard Jenkins earned his second Oscar nomination for his role in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. The film, which tells the story of a mute janitor who befriends a captured sea creature, earned a total of 13 nominations, when the contenders for the 90th annual Academy Awards were announced on Tuesday.

“It’s humbling. It’s very otherworldly. It’s great,” Jenkins tells ET about how it feels to be recognized.

Given that the actor has been nominated by the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes and the SAG Awards, it comes as no surprise that the Academy would follow suit, which may also explain why Jenkins was up watching the nominees being announced on his phone.

“The last time I was nominated, I wasn't watching,” Jenkins says, referring to his Best Actor nomination in 2009 for The Visitor. “And my son-in-law, his father called me to congratulate me and I didn't know it. He said, 'What, you weren't watching?' So this time, I did watch.”

This awards season, The Shape of Water has picked up a number of accolades in addition to rave reviews for the performances by Jenkins and his co-stars, Sally Jenkins and Octavia Spencer. When asked what it means to be recognized for this particular role, the actor says “it’s incredibly gratifying that you do something and people respond to it -- because that’s why you do it. You don’t do it in a vacuum. You want to connect emotionally with people watching.”

But as to why this film -- part horror, part fantasy, part romance -- seems to be resonating with audiences, Jenkins can only speak to the emotional connection between the characters. “I’m sure it’s different for everybody who sees it,” he says, adding that because the film doesn’t fit into any one genre makes it all the more special.

With the cast and crew racking up so many nominations and awards this season, it’s any wonder how they all connect and congratulate each other. “Email,” he says simply. And no doubt there are many going back and forth. 

The 90th annual Academy Awards will be hosted live by Jimmy Kimmel at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, March 4 starting at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ABC.

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