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Will Smith breaks silence on Oscar snub and confronts lack of diversity

Concussion

Story by Jack Foley

WILL Smith has joined his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, in speaking out against this year’s failure by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate a single actor of colour among this year’s Oscar nominees.

The two-times nominated star of Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness, had been expected to pick up a nomination for his performance in NFL drama Concussion, in which he plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a sports-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known.

But his omission from the shortlist, along with snubs for Creed, Beasts of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton, immediately prompted his wife, Pinkett-Smith, to post a video on Twitter saying that she intended to boycott the awards ceremony.

And Will Smith has now joined her in expressing his disappointment at this year’s shortlist, while also announcing that he intended to boycott the ceremony.

In an interview with Good Morning America on Thursday, he said: “We’ve discussed it and we’re a part of this community, but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say this is okay.”

Smith went on to admit that he was “knocked over” by his wife’s remarks, noting that he “appreciated the push” from her. And he continued: “There’s a position we hold in this community, and if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem. It was her call to action for herself and for me and our family to be a part of the solution.”

Pressed by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts on whether Pinkett Smith’s comments had been made because of his own snub among the best actors, the actor admitted that “there’s probably a part of that in there”.

But he was quick to add: “For Jada, had I been nominated and no other people of colour were, she would have made the video anyway. We’d still be here having the conversation anyway. This is so deeply not about me. This is about children who are going to sit down and watch the show and not see themselves represented.”

As for his own views on the current state of affairs, Smith backed fellow actor and director George Clooney in expressing the view that the Oscars were going in the wrong direction. And he also agreed that this was part of a wider problem, within Hollywood, of a lack of opportunity.

Speaking candidly, he said: “I think diversity is the American super-power. That’s why we’re great. So many different people from so many different places adding their ideas, their inspiration and influences to this beautiful American gumbo.

“For me, at it’s best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and the Hollywood community great. So, when I look at the series of nominations from the Academy, it’s not reflecting that beauty.”

He continued: “The nominations reflect the Academy, the Academy reflects the industry – reflects Hollywood. The industry reflects America. It reflects a series of challenges we’re having in our country at the moment. There’s a regressive slide towards racial and religious disharmony. That’s not the Hollywood I want to leave behind. […] That’s not the America I want to leave behind.”

And turning his attention to Hollywood in general, he said he felt that it needed to “get out front” of the diversity issues facing the industry, even praising its past reputation for being progressive.

“There’s a disharmony that’s brewing in our country and in our industry – I want no parts of that,” he added. “This is a marriage. I look at it as this sort of big, giant, multi-interracial marriage. Sometimes dysfunctional. But the marriage is in a space where divorce is not an option. We’re all in this together. We have to figure it out. We have to make it right.”