The diverse roster of nominees among the 89th Academy Awards is a signal of a more inclusive Hollywood — one year after #OscarsSoWhite. Still, some industry observers at the NAACP Image Awards nominees luncheon held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on Saturday in Los Angeles remain uncertain about what that progress will look like moving forward.
“I’m just happy that the Academy has finally gotten around to recognizing films that they’ve left out in the past, and shouldn’t have left out,” TV One president Brad Siegel shared, adding that best picture nominees “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” and “Moonlight” were worthy contenders for top honors in the category.
With a record-setting year of six acting nods for black performers, 36-year screen acting vet Loretta Devine cites the Academy’s expanded pool of voting members for playing a part in recognizing women of color.
“This is my first year they brought me into the Academy and I got a chance to help out in the picking of who’s being selected,” the actress explained. “I’m just so glad it’s much easier now for these young girls that are coming up behind me to feel like they are being included and their talent will be seen, and I just hope it continues.”
Fox’s “Lethal Weapon” star Keesha Sharp said last year’s social media uproar was eye-opening for some voting members. “Some people can get caught in their own world — what they think is good, what kind of scripts they think are good — and if it doesn’t represent them, they don’t pay attention to it. I think what happened this year is that people started to pay attention to everything.”
But a touch of diversity doesn’t represent enough change for “The Birth of a Nation,” according actor Jason Stuart, who said that institutionalized racism is still at play in the entertainment industry.
“We were hoping to get a best picture (nomination), at the very least, and I think that there are other forces in our industry and there’s a lot of racism,” he shared. “But what I’ve learned in the last year is that some people can slide through and some people can’t. Nate Parker, in the court of law, is an innocent man. All that aside, this is a brilliant film.”
Parker’s historical drama was a darling at Sundance Film Festival last year, but his profile suffered after appearing visibly agitated while answering questions on his part in a 1999 rape case, in which he was acquitted. His accuser committed suicide in 2012.
“Birth of a Nation” earned six NAACP Image Awards nods for Parker.
TV One will air the 48th NAACP Image Awards at 9 p.m. ET on Feb. 11.