Every year, the Hollywood Reporter conducts roundtable discussions with the actors most likely to win awards for their work in both movies and television. Every year, the Hollywood Reporter catches flak for drawing from the same, largely white talent pool. This year is no exception, as Tuesday's announcement of the participants in THR's Best Actress Oscar roundtable inspired an almost weary cry: "Why is every single one of them white?"
The magazine had clearly anticipated the backlash, as it almost immediately published a lengthy rebuttal. In "Why Every Actress on the Hollywood Reporter Roundtable Cover Is White," executive features editor Stephen Galloway explains that the cover is an unfortunate reflection of the stubborn entertainment industry, the result of discovering "precisely ZERO actresses of color in the Oscar conversation."
...even for me, a white man, it was impossible to ignore the fact that every one of these women is white — whether old or young, English, Australian or American. That was appalling. The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year.
... Two years ago, I was thrilled that three of the six women on our roundtable were black: Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong’o and Octavia Spencer. I thought, perhaps naively, that this represented a sea-change in the film business, and hoped it was catching up with the tectonic shifts that industries all across America have had to make to reflect this country’s diversity. But I was wrong.
In response, BuzzFeed's Jarett Wieselman offered a telling observation:
In the film industry, actors of color are often relegated to sidekick status or corralled together in movies that are supposedly aimed at a more "niche" market than major blockbusters. The face of television, however, is changing far more rapidly than that of movies, especially in terms of leads.
Earlier this year, Kerry Washington spoke to BlackAmericaWeb about the growing roles for black women on television:
"It’s not just that there are Black women on television, it’s that there are Black women on television doing quality work. When I watch Taraji [P. Henson] on Empire, she’s doing what she was born to be doing. The woman is an Oscar nominated actress, but you watch this and you’re like, this is it. Gabrielle Union is doing the best work of her career [on Being Mary Jane], and I feel the same about Viola Davis [on How to Get Away with Murder]. It’s good to be a Black girl on TV right now."
It's true that populating the TV landscape with more substantive minority characters is still a work in progress, as Davis pointed out in September when she won an Emmy for How to get Away With Murder ("You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there"). But it is now far more likely that a studio will trust a nonwhite actor with a leading role on television (in addition to the shows Wieselman refers to in his tweet, see Quantico, Fresh Off the Boat, Black-ish, and Master of None, to name a few) over a leading role in a film.