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Viola Davis responds to likelihood of becoming most nominated Black actress in Oscars history

Los Angeles premiere of Amazon Studios' 'Troop Zero'
Viola Davis

Viola Davis believes the likely prospect of becoming the most nominated Black actress in Oscars history is a reflection of “the lack of opportunities for people of colour” in the industry.

The star is hotly tipped to be nominated for Best Actress for her role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom when the nominations are announced on 15 March, and while she’s grateful to have been nominated three times already, she believes this record should have been set many years ago.

“For me, it’s a reflection of the lack of opportunities and access to opportunities people of colour have had in this business,” she told Variety. “If me, going back to the Oscars four times in 2021, makes me the most nominated Black actress in history, that’s a testament to the sheer lack of material there has been out there for artists of colour.”

Davis, 55, currently shares the record with her The Help co-star and close friend Octavia Spencer, who both have three – and one win each – under their belt. Davis, who won for Fences in 2017, has also been nominated for Doubt and The Help. The only other Black actress with multiple Oscar nods is Whoopi Goldberg, who has been recognised twice and won once.

“A lot of times we don’t have a seat at the table,” she continued. “It’s not because we don’t have the talent, it’s not because we’re not working hard. It’s because of fundamental truths that we are not given the same permission, tools and everything that we need to even start on the same level, or to be on the same playing field.

“There are a lot of white actresses out there, who are fairly young – in their 20s or 30s, who have been to the Academy Awards just as many times as me or more than me. It is a reflection of their talent – but it’s also a reflection of their opportunities. That’s what it is. It’s a reflection of how they had the chance – those three, four or five roles that were so good that brought them to that place.”

Both Jennifer Lawrence and Saoirse Ronan had earned four Oscar nominations by the age of 25. Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Jane Fonda, Kate Winslet, and Glenn Close all have seven nods, while Meryl Streep holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations of any actor with 21.

– Cover Media