Viola Davis Just Broke An Oscars Record. Here’s How

Viola Davis has just made Oscar history. According to Entertainment Weekly, the talented actor received a Best Actress nom on Monday for her work in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, giving her a total of four acting nominations — the most of any Black woman in the history of the Academy Awards. She also broke records by being the first Black woman to receive two Best Actress nominations. Davis was previously nominated for her work in The Help, Doubt, and Fences — the last of which earned her a statuette. 

This nomination means Davis has surpassed her friend Octavia Spencer, who has three Oscar nods (and one win) herself for her work in Hidden Figures, The Shape of Water, and The Help. Monday’s news also makes Davis the third most nominated Black actor overall. Only Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman have more nominations than her. Washington has been nominated eight times and has won twice, while Freeman has five noms and only one win.

Viola Davis called out the 'sheer lack of material' for Black actors

While Viola Davis expressed gratitude for the platform awards season gives her, she doesn’t think being the most nominated Black actress is a good thing. In an interview with Variety, she expressed her milestone is more a reflection of the lack of opportunities given to people of color and indicative of how they don’t have a seat at the table. “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 color.”

Davis told Variety she hoped this awards season would be different — and not just because of the pandemic. “I’m actually really excited to see how that takes shape — how people speak their truths, even in their acceptance speeches, how they deal with getting golden statues and what they do with their power now,” she said.

For her part, Davis has made the effort to create opportunity for herself and other Black actors in the industry. She formed a production company in 2011 with her husband, Julius Tennon, which is dedicated to challenging the status quo and telling authentic and progressive stories, according to Variety.

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