Cynthia Erivo ‘bittersweet’ as only black actor nominee

Harriet star Cynthia Erivo says it feels “bittersweet” to be the only person of colour to be nominated for an Oscar in this year’s acting categories.

Erivo is up for a best actress Academy Award for her portrayal of slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

But overall, the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations has sparked widespread criticism.

Erivo told BBC Breakfast she wanted it to “serve as an example of how we need to judge these films”.

“I want to make sure it doesn’t look like this every single time,” she added.

Erivo’s category rivals include Little Women’s Saoirse Ronan, Bombshell star Charlize Theron and Renee Zellweger for Judy.

The British actress said it was time for the film industry to take stock and “figure out how this happens”.

“There are people who also deserve to be a part of this,” she said.

“Hopefully this year will be a turning point for everyone because we’re talking about it out loud and now it can start to make some changes.

“We can’t keep doing this and doing nothing about it so maybe now we start doing something.”

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman. Image copyright: Universal

Erivo is also nominated for best original song, for Harriet’s Stand-Up.

She said she was drawn to Harriet by her “humanity and the love that she had”.

“I wanted her legacy to continue,” she added.

There’s also been criticism of the lack of female representation in many of the Oscar nominee categories this year.

There were no female best director nominees, with Little Women’s Greta Gerwig missing out, meaning her nomination for Lady Bird in 2018 was the only one for a female director in the last 10 years.

It was back in 2015 and 2016 that the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag began, when there were no nominees of colour in the acting categories for two years in a row.

The Academy said then it had taken steps to have a more diverse membership but many users have been tweeting the hashtag again following the announcement of the 2020 nominees.

However, it’s not isolated to the Academy Awards as both the Golden Globes and the Baftas have also been publically criticised, mostly recently by Joaquin Phoenix.

At this year’s Baftas, there was no ethnic minority representation in any of the acting categories, with no room even for homegrown talent Erivo.

She went on to turn down an invitation to perform at the ceremony, saying she felt it didn’t “represent people of colour in the right light”.

“It felt like it was calling on me as an entertainer as opposed to a person who was a part of the world of film,” she told US website Extra.

However, Erivo will be one of the performers during the Oscars ceremony on Sunday, where she is due to sing Stand Up.

She said it felt “crazy” to find herself in such a position.

“To be experiencing a dream come true in a real time – that’s crazy.

“You couldn’t have told me when I was at drama school that this was going to happen 10 years from now.”

Main image copyright: BBC

First published 04.02.20:

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