Last year, The Hollywood Reporter blatantly stated that every woman featured in its Actress Roundtable issue was white, explaining, “The awful truth is that there are no minority actresses in genuine contention for an Oscar this year.”
The letter to readers was necessary, especially after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. In 2015, every person nominated in the four major Academy Award acting categories was white. And once again, in 2016, not a single actor of color was up for an award. But it seems THR’s new cover might give us some hope that this year’s nominations will be different.
Black actresses including “Hidden Figures” star Taraji P. Henson and “Moonlight” and “Collateral Beauty” frontwoman Naomie Harris appear in the issue alongside an array of women of all ages. Three famous redheads ― Amy Adams, Isabelle Huppert and Emma Stone ― are singled out, as well as “Jackie” star Natalie Portman and the legendary Annette Bening, whose performance in “20th Century Women” is getting rave reviews.
It’s safe to say that the women interviewed during the roundtable also noticed the change in attendees this year.
“It’s changing hugely,” Harris, 40, said of the industry’s focus on actors of color. Henson, 46, added that, although it’s “always hard” to discover roles as a black woman, she sees that all women in Hollywood face their own set of problems. “I have white friends, blond hair, blue eyes, who ain’t worked in five years. Have we seen enough representation of African-American stories? No. But has Hollywood been horrible to me? No,” she said. “I’ve worked. Did I get paid what I deserve? That is the question we should be talking about. But I can’t take that on because I have worked and I’ve seen my career do this. So I never wallow in the muck and say, ‘Oh, it’s hard.’ That’s a given. I can’t take this skin off. We know what the deal is. You understand? So I’m not going to make it an issue.”
There are a few female actresses of color being recognized for their work this year, most notably Henson and Harris, as well as Ruth Negga of “Loving,” Sonia Braga of “Aquarius,” Sasha Lane of “American Honey” and Madina Nalwanga of “Queen of Katwe.” We could definitely see a handful of these women make it on the award show ballots, which is a step forward for Hollywood.
As for what Adams thinks about the diversity problem, as well as another timely issue in Hollywood ― aging ― she believes it’s producers, not the actresses, we should be grilling.
“Who you should be asking is the Producer Roundtable: ‘Do you think minorities are underrepresented? Do you think women are underpaid?’ We are always put on the chopping block to put our opinion out there, and that question is never asked. I’m like, ‘Why don’t you ask them and then have their statements be the headlines in the press?’ I don’t want to be a headline anymore about pay equality,” Adams, 42, said, adding, “I think the real question should be asked of the people who make those decisions.”
Portman, who is expecting her second child with husband Benjamin Millepied, concluded the conversation by addressing how all women should be helping each other in the current social climate.
“It feels very urgent right now to make change in local communities,” the 35-year-old said. “Right now it feels really important to push female leadership. We need to teach girls to be bosses now. Now. Like yesterday.”
For more from the Actress Roundtable, head to The Hollywood Reporter.