One of the early narratives of the 2016 awards season has been the seeming strength of the Best Actress category. For instance, Emma Stone (for La La Land), Natalie Portman (for Jackie), Annette Bening (for 20th Century Women), Amy Adams (for Arrival), Ruth Negga (for Loving) and Isabelle Huppert (for Elle) have all earned early acclaim on the festival circuit. Others including Meryl Streep (for Florence Foster Jenkins), Sally Field (for Hello, My Name Is Doris) and Kate Beckinsale (for Love & Friendship) are also hoping to carve out a place at the table while Taraji P. Henson (for Hidden Figures), Jessica Chastain (for Miss Sloane) and Marion Cotillard (for Allied) are waiting in the wings.
In an effort to bypass such competition, Paramount appears ready to confirm that Viola Davis will contend, or at least campaign, in the Best Supporting Actress category for the upcoming Fences. The film, directed by and starring Denzel Washington and based on August Wilson’s widely admired Pulitzer Prize winning stage play (Washington and Davis appeared in a recent Broadway revival of the piece and picked up a pair of leading actor Tony Awards, respectively), is one of Paramount’s major 2016 awards plays. The story focuses on retired ballplayer-turned-garbage man Troy Maxson (Washington) attempting raise his family in the 1950s; Davis portrays his wife Rose.
The character of Rose, on terms of awards runs, has proven somewhat malleable on terms of categorization. While Davis won a leading actress Tony Award in 2010 for the role, Mary Alice picked up a Tony in the Best Performance by a Featured Actress (the American Theater Wing equivalent of Best Supporting Actress) category in the original Broadway run of Fences back in 1987. More importantly, this strategy set up by Paramount (and Davis) suggests a feeling that the move will be an easier win. Unlike the lead category, the supporting field appears somewhat slimmer with Michelle Williams (for Manchester by the Sea) and Naomie Harris (for Moonlight) emerging as early potential nominees.
Fences will open in theaters, starting in limited release on December 16th in New York and Los Angeles, followed by a national expansion set for Christmas Day. Davis, who in 2015 won an Emmy for How to Get Away with Murder, has two Oscar nominations under her belt, having been acknowledged previously for her supporting turn in Doubt (2008) and her lead turn in The Help (2011).