January 21, 2016


Will Smith Joins Oscar Boycott, Cites "Regressive Slide Towards Separatism"

Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Will Smith announced on Thursday morning that he is absolutely part of Jada Pinkett Smith's boycott of this year's Academy Awards. “For me, at its best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty," two-time Oscar nominee Smith told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. "When I look at the series of nominations of the Academy, it's not reflecting that beauty.” 

This year zero actors of color are represented in the 20 slots for performance recognition. Straight Outta Compton, made by a black director and starring black actors in the leads, was nominated only for its screenplay, penned by two white writers. It's a similar situation for Creed, a film that repositions the Rocky storyline for a young black man, as directed by a young black man, only to be nominated once, for Sylvester Stallone's performance as a character we've seen in six prior movies.

Jada Pinkett Smith, Will's spouse of 18 years, shared a Facebook video a few days after the Oscar nominations, soberly targeting the Academy's bias. "At the Oscars," she said, "people of color are always welcomed to give out awards, even entertain, but we are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments." 

Here's what Will had to add on GMA:

“Everyone is beautiful and deserving, and it's fantastic, but it feels like it's going the wrong direction. When I look at it, the nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry, it reflects Hollywood. And then the industry reflects America. It reflects a series of challenges that we are having in our country at the moment. There's a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony. And that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind. ... There’s a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not a part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. And it was her call to action for herself and for me and for our family to be a part of the solution.”

Obliquely responding to Fresh Prince actress Janet Hubert's impassioned accusations that Jada's boycott gravitated around the fact that her husband was snubbed for his turn in Concussion, Will stressed that the boycott is more directly about young people watching the show who are "not going to see themselves represented." 

"We’re part of this community," Smith said, "but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is okay."

Lupita Nyong'o and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs have also weighed in, expressing disappointment.