Diversity Reigns as BET's 'Book of Negroes' Dominates Early Round of Canadian Screen Awards

Book of Negroes - H 2015
Courtesy of BET

Take that #OscarsSoWhite — the Cuba Gooding Jr.-starring miniseries took home nine trophies in early prize-giving.

Diversity was the big winner Wednesday night at the Canadian Screen Awards as BET miniseries The Book of Negroes, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Louis Gossett Jr., dominated awards handed out before the telecast.

The series' co-stars Lyriq Bent, Aunjanue Ellis and Shailyn Pierre-Dixon won big TV drama prizes in Toronto in a celebration of diversity at Canada's film and TV awards. Based on author Lawrence Hill's best-selling novel Someone Knows My Name, The Book of Negroes tells the story of kidnapped African woman Aminata Diallo, who survives slavery in the South.

She lives through the American Revolution in New York and becomes a refugee in Canada and Sierra Leone before finally finding freedom in England. Ellis won the award for best limited drama series actress, Bent picked up the trophy for best limited drama series actor, and Pierre-Dixon won for best supporting actress in a limited drama.

The Book of Negroes also earned Clement Virgo the best limited drama director prize, while Virgo and Lawrence Hill shared the best limited drama writing trophy. "Lawrence Hill gave Canadians a gift with The Book of Negroes. It was an honor to translate it to the screen," Virgo told a pre-telecast awards ceremony at the Westin Harbor Castle Hotel in Toronto.

The BET series, which aired on the CBC in Canada, also earned a handful of craft awards, giving it a total of nine trophies in the pre-telecast prize-giving.

The recent 88th annual Academy Awards stirred controversy for an all-white slate of acting nominees for the second year in a row. Canada's Screenies, which celebrate homegrown film and TV, also gave the comedy Schitt's Creek, which airs stateside on the Pop channel, six trophies Wednesday night.

Those included honors for best supporting comedic actor for Chris Elliot, best comedy writing for Daniel Levy, and Paul Fox winning for best comedy director. BBC America's Orphan Black earned five wins, including best dramatic series writing for Alex Levine.

The Canadian Screen Awards, organized by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, will hand out its biggest prizes on March 13 during a gala awards show to air on the CBC network. Room, a Canada-Ireland co-production starring Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, secured a field-leading 11 nominations in the movie categories heading into the Canadian Screen Awards.