Queen Latifah, Viola Davis, Orange Is the New Black cast talk diversity at SAG awards

Diversity in Hollywood remained a topic for questions put to many actors who came through the SAG awards press room after winning an award Saturday.

On stage and in the press room, actors speak their minds about what diversity means in Hollywood

Cast and crew of Orange Is the New Black accept the award for outstanding ensemble in a comedy series at the 22nd annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 30. (Vince Bucci/The Associated Press)

Diversity in Hollywood remained a topic for questions put to many actors who came through the SAG awards press room after winning an award Saturday.

"What is exciting to me is that we're even having this conversation because I can tell you that five years ago, we wouldn't have been having this conversation," said Lea DeLaria from Orange Is the New Black, which won for best television comedy ensemble. 
Lea DeLaria, posing in middle with Orange Is the New Black co-stars Emma Myles and Jessica Pimentel, says having open conversations about diversity in Hollywood is progress in itself. (The Associated Press)

The Netflix series about a women's prison prides itself on a strong female cast with diverse voices. DeLaria, who has been openly gay for decades, also plays an openly gay inmate on the show.

Concerns over the lack of representation on screen, particularly in film, has been dominating social media since the Academy Award nominations came out Jan. 14. The acting categories had all-white nominees for the second year in a row, sparking the popular hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

The SAG awards showed more diversity in its slate of nominees and eventual winners, which has only cast a larger spotlight on the Oscars.

Queen Latifah, who took the SAG award for her role in HBO's Bessie, was asked whether Hollywood is adapting fast enough to reflect its surroundings and audience.
Queen Latifah, posing in the press room with the SAG award for outstanding female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for Bessie, said the public has to continue to demand change when it comes to representation on screen. (The Associated Press)

"I think some of it was already happening but the public has to continue to demand that," she said backstage. "We are in a capitalist society so hopefully supply and demand will kick back in. The people want it. Give it to the people."

Viola Davis, who said in her 2015 Emmy acceptance speech for her role in How to Get Away with Murder that "the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity", was reluctant to take the debate further after winning a SAG award Saturday for the same part.
Viola Davis poses in the press room with the SAG award for outstanding female actor in a drama series for How to Get Away with Murder Saturday in Los Angeles. (The Associated Press)

"We have become a society of trending topics," she said. "Diversity is not a trending topic. It's just not. I see myself as an actor. No matter what is going on in the business, I will find a way to practise my art."

She argued that a more productive approach to initiate change in the business is to "plop your money down" to see films such as Dope, Selma and Straight Outta Compton.

"That's more important than boycotting [the Oscars], is openness," she told reporters.

About the Author

Zulekha Nathoo

Digital/Broadcast reporter, L.A.

Zulekha Nathoo is a breaking news and entertainment reporter based in Los Angeles. From the Oscars to the Grammys, she's interviewed some of the biggest names in showbiz including Celine Dion and Denzel Washington. She also works on-air covering news events and spent more than a decade at CBC stations across Canada, including Toronto and Calgary. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram: @zulekhanathoo.


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