Viola Davis, the Oscar-nominated actress known for her performances in Doubt, Fences, The Help and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, has officially become the most nominated Black actress in the history of the Academy Awards. She and Andra Day have both been nominated for the Best Actress Award making it only the second time in history where two Black women will compete in the category in the same year.
“For me, it’s a reflection of the lack of opportunities and access to opportunities people of color have had in this business,” Davis said in an interview with Variety last month. “If me, going back to the Oscars four times in 2021, makes me the most nominated Black actress in history, that’s a testament to the sheer lack of material there has been out there for artists of color.”
Davis was previously tied with her friend and co-star Octavia Spencer, who has received three Best Supporting Actress nominations for The Help, Hidden Figures and The Shape of Water. The only other black actress with more than one competitive Oscar nomination is Whoopi Goldberg.
“There are a lot of white actresses out there, who are fairly young — in their 20s or 30s, who have been to the Academy Awards just as many times as me or more than me,” Davis said. “It is a reflection of their talent — but it’s also a reflection of their opportunities. That’s what it is. It’s a reflection of how they had the chance — those three, four or five roles that were so good that brought them to that place. [Being a Black actress] is like having a fabulous body, but not having the right clothes to show it off.”
Davis’ performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has received high praise from critics since the film’s Netflix release. Her co-star in the film, the late Chadwick Boseman, also received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance.