“Diversity Is Not A Trending Topic” Viola Davis Speaks on #OscarsSoWhite

Viola Davis poses with the Actor for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series in the press room at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO/FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN
Viola Davis poses with the Actor for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series in the press room at the 22nd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 30, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. AFP PHOTO/FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN

How to Get Away with Murder star Viola Davis addressed the #OscarsSoWhite debate last night at the SAG Awards as she aced her Outstanding Female Actor in a TV Drama award.

When asked about her thoughts on the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards which led some black actors and directors to boycott the show, 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.

Speaking about boycotting the events, she added:

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 Murdercharacter], 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 seeRace, 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.

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Receiving an Emmy in September 2015 as the first black woman to win the Lead Actress in a Drama award, Davis had said, “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

Check out her full interview in the press room below.

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