After winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Female Actor in a TV Drama, Viola Davis discussed the ongoing #OscarsSoWhite conversation with reporters backstage and shared her thoughts on some of her peers vowing to boycott the ceremony.
When asked for her thoughts on #OscarsSoWhite, she replied:
We have become a society of trending topics. Diversity is not a trending topic. It's just not. I've always considered myself an actor since I got my equity card in 1988. I’ve never put any limitations on myself. I felt like I can play Chekov, any character in Chekov, in Shakespeare, in Miller, in August Wilson. I see myself as an actor. No matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art. And all of the actors of color that I know don't place limitations on themselves either. So regardless of what is going on with the Academy, regardless of what is going on in Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and we always will.
Later in the press room after her win, Davis was asked if she thought the Oscars should be boycotted, like Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, and others have pledged to do. The actor let out a laugh and said:
I think people should do what they want to do with the Oscars. If they want to watch it, that's fine. If they don't, that's fine. I think more importantly, when you walk into a theater, whether it be a movie theater or a live theater, be open to the experience of the story. I think that sometimes people feel like stories about people of color are not inclusive. They are very much inclusive. I mean, the work of August Wilson — which really, pretty much made my career — is everyone's story. When you watch Annalise [Keating, her How to Get Away With Murder character], she's not just a black woman; she is a woman going through her life, you know? And I feel like people forget that in our business, we can't act in a room: You need the actor, you need the writer, you need the director, and finally, you need the audience. So I'm just saying, plop your money down to see Race, to see Dope, to see Straight Outta Compton, to see Selma, to support directors like Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels, Spike Lee... Their stories are just as valid and as important as anyone else. More important than boycotting is openness.
In September, when Davis became the first black woman to win the Lead Actress in a Drama award, she said, “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."