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Danielle Deadwyler attributes Oscars snub of ‘Till’ to racism against Black women

A standing woman, holding papers, talks to a seated woman in a living room.
Danielle Deadwyler, left, and Whoopi Goldberg in the movie “Till.”
(Lynsey Weatherspoon / Orion Pictures)
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For the first time since she was shut out of the 2023 Oscars nominations last month, actor Danielle Deadwyler has addressed the snub of her performance in “Till.” She says racism against Black women was a factor.

Deadwyler played Mamie Till, the grieving mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old whose 1955 Mississippi murder helped spur the civil rights movement. Despite critical acclaim for her performance and the film leading up to awards season, academy voters overlooked Deadwyler.

That, along with Viola Davis’ snub for “The Woman King,” prompted many to resurrect the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and criticize the academy for its continued lack of diversity and equality.

The day after nominations were announced, Chinonye Chukwu, the director of “Till,” addressed her film’s lack of Oscar recognition.

“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,” Chukwu wrote on Instagram on Jan. 25.

From critics groups to the guilds to the Academy Awards, Hollywood’s highest honors continue to overlook Black women — eight years after #OscarsSoWhite.

Jan. 25, 2023

Deadwyler, however, had not spoken publicly about the situation until this week on the film podcast “Kermode and Mayo’s Take,” when she was asked about Chukwu’s comments.

“We’re talking about people who perhaps chose not to see the film — we’re talking about misogynoir — like it comes in all kinds of ways, whether it’s direct or indirect. It impacts who we are,” Deadwyler said on the podcast, according to Entertainment Weekly.

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Her mention of “misogynoir” refers to a term coined by Black feminist activist and scholar Moya Bailey to describe hatred directed at Black women, typically within portrayals of American visual arts and pop culture.

The 2023 Oscar nominations did not include any for Black performers in a leading role. Many point to the snubs of Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler.

Jan. 24, 2023

“I think the question is more on people who are living in whiteness, white people’s assessment of the spaces they are privileged by,” Deadwyler continued. “We’ve seen it exist in a governmental capacity — it can exist on a societal capacity, be it global or national.”

Such systemic discrimination is a part of our everyday life and our industries, added Deadwyler, who has referred to herself as a child of “civil rights legacy institutions in Atlanta.”

“Everyone has to assess and investigate, source out and make more equitable,” she said. “Nobody is absolved of not participating in racism and not knowing that there is a possibility of its lingering effect on the spaces and the institution.”

Chinonye Chukwu’s portrait of Mamie Till-Mobley, mother of the slain Emmett Till, shows much of the same intelligent restraint as her 2019 drama, ‘Clemency.’

Oct. 12, 2022

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Upon the release of “Till” in October, Deadwyler’s performance was lauded by critics. The Times’ Justin Chang called her “an actor of rare expressive subtlety” who “projects an air of foreboding that merges with ours.”

Deadwyler earned nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Gotham Independent Film Awards; at the last of those, she won the lead acting award.

After Oscar nominations were announced in January, Deadwyler’s supporters angrily pointed to the inclusion of dark horse Andrea Riseborough for her performance in “To Leslie.” Riseborough was the subject of an intense, last-minute Oscars campaign, during which a large group of mostly white A-list celebrities championed her performance.

Oscar nominations bring surprises, including Andrea Riseborough, Ana de Armas and Brian Tyree Henry; and snubs of Danielle Deadwyler and Viola Davis.

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However, some encouraged detractors to instead focus on the system itself, rather than solely blame Riseborough.

“What does it say that the Black women who did everything the institution asks of them — luxury dinners, private academy screenings, meet-and-greets, splashy television spots and magazine profiles — are ignored when someone who did everything outside of the system is rewarded?,” film critic Robert Daniels wrote in a recent column for The Times.

Deadwyler’s interview on “Kermode and Mayo’s Take” is available on Apple podcasts.

The 95th Academy Awards, televised on CBS, will take place on March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

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