Halle Berry — the only black woman to have won the Academy Award for Best Actress — has spoken out about the fact 2016 marks the second consecutive year where every actor nominated for an Oscar is white.
While at the Makers Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, she talked about her historic win for Monster’s Ball nearly 15 years ago, when she thanked all the women of color who came before her.
“I believed that in that moment, that when I said, ‘The door tonight has been opened,’ I believed that with every bone in my body that this was going to incite change because this door, this barrier, had been broken,” Berry said. “And to sit here almost 15 years later, and knowing that another woman of color has not walked through that door, is heartbreaking. … Because I thought that moment was bigger than me. It’s heartbreaking to start to think maybe it wasn’t bigger than me. … And I so desperately felt like it was.”
Berry went on to say that after her win, she assumed opportunities would come her way, but they didn’t. “I realized after Oscar, not only had no other black woman walked through the door, I hadn’t gotten close either,” Berry said. “Something was wrong and I realized that I had to be in charge of my own destiny and I had to be a part of the change of our industry, not just sitting around pontificating and talking about it and complaining about what’s not right. I had to actively start to be a part of the change and I realize that was about creating my own projects, not just for me but for other women, other women of color. And that was the path to real change, when we realize we do have the power to do that.”
Since her win in 2002, Berry executive produced the 2005 TV movie Lackawanna Blues, produced and starred in the 2010 film Frankie & Alice, and executive produced and starred in the CBS drama Extant. She’s also producing and starring in the upcoming thriller Kidnap.
Viola Davis, who’s been nominated for two Oscars, shared Berry’s sentiment at the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she won Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series for her performance in the ABC series How to Get Away With Murder. “I see myself as an actor,” she said on Saturday in the press room after her win. “No matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practice my art. And all of the actors of color that I know don’t place limitations on themselves either. So regardless of what is going on with the Academy, regardless of what is going on in Hollywood, they will find a way to be excellent. We always have and we always will.
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