Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae Address Oscar Nominations' Lack of Diversity

Cynthia Erivo, Issa Rae - Getty - Split - H 2020
Steve Granitz/WireImage; Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Both actresses were on hand at the Television Critics Association press tour to promote their HBO shows.

Cynthia Erivo and Issa Rae are addressing this year's very white, very male Oscar nominations.

Appearing via satellite from Tokyo at the Television Critics Association press tour to promote HBO's new Stephen King adaptation The Outsider, new Oscar nominee Erivo was asked about Monday's nominations and King's controversial Tuesday tweets about them in which he shared his take on the lack of inclusiveness. "I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality," he wrote in a tweet that went viral. "It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong."

The British actress, who was nominated for her performance in the biopic Harriet, previously addressed the fact that she was the only person of color to be nominated in the acting categories in a series of interviews, telling The New York Times, "It’s not enough that I’m the only one. It just isn’t." The question posed to her by the room full of reporters at TCA this Wednesday morning: "How do we balance diversity with — what Stephen says — quality?'" 

"I can’t solve how you balance diversity with quality of work," said Erivo, noting that she hopes more work created by and starring people of color is seen. "I feel like this year we had a flurry of beautiful pieces by people who are of diverse nature: black women, women in general." She pointed to TV in particular, and specifically to HBO's new drama Watchmen, which stars Regina King.

"I think we just have to open the doors and our eyes to those people who are making the work," she continued. "I am one of the players, so if there’s room for me to play, then that’s what I’m going to do. And if I can create room for others, that’s also what I’m going to do. But it’s also up to those people who are used to doing things a certain way to shake up their own ideas, change the way they think, change the way they cast things, change the way they line up their producers, directors and writers and make sure that the room reflects the world that we live in."

The subject also came up when Rae, who announced the Oscar nominations with John Cho on Monday, was on stage to promote the upcoming fourth season of her comedy Insecure. "I think it's unfortunate. The Academy needs to do better," she said of the nominations. "I'm tired of having the same conversation. Every year it's something."

Rae said that her "congratulations to those men" quip — which went viral — came about when her and Cho were told to banter for a few seconds. "That was my banter. I didn't lie," she explained. "For me, it's pointing it out when I see it — but I don't want to get too worked up about it. It is what it is at this point. It's the conversations that are happening behind the scenes that I'm interested in."

She added, "I don't want to say too much about it. It's annoying."