Danielle Deadwyler Addresses Systemic Racism Within Film Industry After Oscars Snub

The US actor had been tipped to receive an Academy Award nomination for her performance in the film Till.
Danielle Deadwyler
Danielle Deadwyler
Michael Kovac via Getty Images

Till actor Danielle Deadwyler has spoken out about systemic racism within the film industry, after being one of this year’s most notable snubs at the Oscars.

Earlier this year, Danielle won huge praise for her portrayal of Mamie Till, whose 14-year-old son was killed by white supremacists in the 1950s.

But while many suspected the performance would earn the US actor her first Oscar nomination, she was noticeably absent from the Best Actress category when the contenders were announced last month.

Following the announcement, Till director Chinonye Chukwu wrote on Instagram:We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women.”

During an appearance on BBC Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour, Danielle was asked about Chinonye’s remarks, and whether they reflected her experiences.

Cinematic history is 100+ years old. I would dare say the system is deeply, deeply impacted by systemic racism that has shaped our country,” Danielle said.

“And if we’re still dealing with systemic racism in this country that is leading us to the loss of a Tyre Nichols [a Black man who died in hospital last month, three days after being severely assaulted by police officers], that carries us from the loss of Emmett.

“There is a trickle-down effect of how racism impacts our lives. From the educational system to the film industry to everything, any part of quotidian American life.

“So yes, there is value to what Chinonye said. And it is imperative that every quality of our life begin to truly, deeply interrogate and shift and rupture and change and radically shift the way they seek to actually be an equitable institution.”

Danielle in character as Mamie Till
Danielle in character as Mamie Till
United Artists Releasing/Moviestore/Shutterstock

Danielle was then asked whether it was the Academy or society that needs to change, to which she said: “I think it’s from both ends. It’s got to come from every angle.”

She pointed out the decades between Hattie McDaniel’s Best Supporting Actress win in 1940, Dorothy Dandridge’s Best Actress nomination in 1955 and Halle Berry’s victory in 2002.

“You have to begin to question, ‘why are there these gaps?’,” the Bafta nominee continued. “Before I was even in consideration for anything, these are the things that I’ve witnessed.

“And so, these are critical questions of, ‘how do you begin to actually bring equity to spaces that have long been led or deeply impacted by white supremacist ideologies and thought and practises?’.”

Danielle's performance in Till had been lauded by critics and film fans
Danielle's performance in Till had been lauded by critics and film fans
United Artists Releasing/Moviestore/Shutterstock

While Danielle did not receive a nomination at the Oscars, she has been recognised at numerous other key awards ceremonies, including the Critics’ Choice Awards and the upcoming Baftas.

Danielle’s Till co-star Whoopi Goldberg – herself a former Academy Award winner – had been among the 40-year-old star’s most vocal supporters when it came to Oscar buzz.

Listen to Danielle’s interview on BBC Sounds here.


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