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When Viola Davis became the first black actress to win an Emmy for a lead role in a drama, the How to Get Away With Murder star told the audience, “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”
Ahead of Sunday’s Oscars, where for the second year in a row no people of color were nominated for acting awards, Davis talked about the larger diversity issue in Hollywood on Wednesday’s Today.
She reiterated her Emmys message, saying that if opportunities are created, talented people will take on those roles.
“I think one of the things people misunderstand [is that] you have to separate opportunity from talent,” Davis said. “People feel like if the roles aren’t there, that means there’s no talent out there. That’s not true. What’s true is, if you create those narratives, then those roles can open up to people who are waiting in line.”
“So you write it, and we will come,” she added. “We will show up.”
Davis, who has been nominated for two Oscars, including one for her role alongside Meryl Streep in Doubt, cited the Oscar-winning actress as proof of her message.
“I always say that Meryl Streep would not be Meryl Streep without Sophie’s Choice, without Kramer vs. Kramer, without Devil Wears Prada. You can’t be a Meryl Streep if you’re the third girl from the left in the narrative with two scenes.”
And Davis believes if diverse stories, featuring diverse talent, are created, audiences will respond.
“I have to tell you, I think when you put talent out there and narratives that are powerful and dynamic, people lean in,” Davis said. “They want to see it. They want to be moved. They want to be less alone.”
Last month, Davis told The Hollywood Reporter, “More films need to be made where we can shine. That’s the bottom line. The opportunity does not match the talent. There needs to be more opportunity, that’s just it. And you have to invest in it.”
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