Viola Davis is up for her third Oscar nomination for her role in the movie Fences. Though Davis is expected to take home the gold on Sunday, Viola knows that nothing is a sure thing.
In 2012, Davis was considered the shoe-in for the Best Actress category for her role in The Help. Unfortunately for Viola, she went up against Oscar darling Meryl Streep, who walked away the winner that night.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Viola Davis’ nomination for Fences makes her the most nominated African American actress in Oscar history, surpassing Whoopi Goldberg who had garnered two nominations and one Oscar win. To put Davis’ accomplishment in perspective, the most nominated actress in Academy Award history is ironically the woman who snatched Viola’s last Oscar nomination from her hand, Meryl Streep, who has garnered 20 nominations.
While Meryl has two more decades of acting experience under her belt, the lack of diversity in awards nominations, most especially the Academy Awards, is something that was panned with the “Oscars so white” movement last year. Though Viola Davis hasn’t had the opportunity to get on the Oscars stage and address the issue, she did use her 2015 Emmy award acceptance speech to call on Hollywood for more challenging roles for both women and people of color.
“…let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there,” Davis had commented according to the New York Times before thanking those in the industry including writers, producers and fellow actresses who had paved the way. Viola’s speech was especially poignant because with that Emmy win she became the first African-American to win the Best Actress Emmy in a drama. In fact, if Davis wins the Oscar, she is just a Grammy away from the coveted EGOT.
Whether or not Viola Davis takes home this year’s Oscar could depend on more than a lack of diversity this time around, however. Davis is facing off against two other women of color– her The Help co-star and previous Oscar winner Octavia Spencer for Hidden Figures and Naomie Harris for Moonlight. Rounding out the category are Michelle Williams for Manchester by the Sea and Nicole Kidman for Lion. Kidman also has an Oscar under her belt and has been nominated four times. Williams can sympathize with Davis, however, as she has four nominations behind her with no Oscar to show for it.
Though Viola won’t be facing off against Meryl this time around, her opposition is a talented group of actresses with a long list of accolades. Will the Academy feel it’s time to finally award Williams after her Oscars snub for Brokeback Mountain? Will they stick with a winner in Spencer or Kidman? And don’t discount Naomie Harris’ ability to walk away with the statue that seems to be within Viola Davis’ reach. If there is one thing we have learned from past Academy Awards, it’s that they love their surprises.
Though Viola Davis’ Fences role has already secured her a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, the actress has been playing it cool when it comes to the Oscar nomination. Davis’ acceptance of her nomination was a simple “thank you” to the Academy and Denzel Washington. And if she is fortunate to make it on stage this time, Viola says she has her speech prepared.
In an interview with KTLA, Viola Davis said, “I don’t have to plan it. It’s been living in me for thirty some odd years. I’m fifty-one. I’m a woman of a certain age, a certain level of wisdom. So, uh, I have a testimony.”
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) February 22, 2017
Hopefully, we will have the opportunity to hear that testimony and Viola Davis doesn’t become known as the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards–always expected to win but never taking the victory. We’ll leave that title to Amy Adams.
[Featured Image by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Women In Film.]