For a second year in a row, the nominees for the 2016 Academy Awards were largely a pool of straight, white people. While speaking at the King Legacy Awards on Monday night, the British actor slammed the Oscars for its lack of diversity.
“The Academy has a problem. It’s a problem that needs to be solved,” the 30-year-old Selma star said at the LA event honoring Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “A year ago, I did a film called Selma, and after the Academy Awards, Cheryl invited me to her office to talk about what went wrong then. We had a deep and meaningful [conversation]. For 20 opportunities to celebrate actors of color, actresses of color, to be missed last year is one thing; for that to happen again this year is unforgivable.”
“The reason why the Oscars are so important is because it is the zenith, it is the epitome, it is the height of celebration of artistic endeavor within the filmmaking community,” he continued. “We grow up aspiring, dreaming, longing to be accepted into that august establishment because it is the height of excellence. I would like to walk away and say it doesn’t matter, but it does, because that acknowledgement changes the trajectory of your life, your career, and the culture of the world we live in.”
“I am an Academy member and it doesn’t reflect me, and it doesn’t reflect this nation,” Oyelowo said before highlighting the diversity seen on screen.
“We have a situation whereby currently the biggest movie in the world and of all time [Star Wars: The Force Awakens] is led by a black man. That film was knocked off the top spot this weekend by a film led by two black men, Ride Along 2. The biggest TV show on the planet is led by black people, Empire.”
He then asked the audience to “pray” for a change -- and action to be taken before the Oscars are handed out.
“The Academy is an institution in which they all say radical and timely change cannot happen quickly,” he added. “It better happen quickly. The law of this country can change in a matter of months. It better come on. The Oscars is on February 28. Cheryl needs us to pray that by that date, change is going to come. We need to pray for Cheryl, we need to support Cheryl, we need to love Cheryl. We cannot afford to get bitter, we cannot afford to get negative. But we must make our voice heard.”
This isn’t the first time Oyelowo has admonished the Academy. Last year, he said it was on him to help change the system.
"We’re just going to keep plugging away," he told ET. "The only way to put a dent in the very real fact that there is a disproportionate amount of people who do not look like me doing what I do is something that I’m just going to fight by doing the best I can with the roles I get."
Oyelowo is the only one upset with the pool of nominees up for the Academy’s acting honors. Isaacs shared her disappointment with ET.
“Of course it's disappointing,” she explained. “[There were] a lot of tremendously good films. There's Straight Outta Compton, Concussion, Creed, [2014’s] Dear White People, Dope, OK? I hope this isn't discouraging for anybody and for filmmakers in particular. You just keep moving along. You keep out there. We will keep out there. We will keep pushing that pedal. We're going to keep pushing it.”
To see what Isaacs says about furthering the conversation, watch the video below.