Joaquin Phoenix is, indeed, “invited to the barbecue.”
While accepting the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role on Sunday, the “Joker” actor used his time on-stage to address the lack of diversity in the nominations.
Despite acclaimed performances from stars such as Eddie Murphy (“Dolemite Is My Name”) and Cynthia Erivo (“Harriet”), not a single actor of color was nominated for a major acting award.
“The BAFTAS have already been very supportive of my career and I’m deeply appreciative. But I have to say I also feel conflicted, because so many of my fellow actors that are deserving don’t have that same privilege,” Phoenix told the crowd. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message that we’re sending to people that have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from.”
He continued, “This is not a self-righteous condemnation, because I’m ashamed to say that I’m part of the problem. I have not done everything in my power to ensure that the sets I work on are inclusive. But I think it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. I think that we have to really do the hard work to truly understand systemic racism… I think that it is the obligation of the people that have created and perpetuate and benefit from a system of oppression to be the ones that dismantle it, so that’s on us.”
On Tuesday’s live episode of “The Real,” hosts Amanda Seales, Loni Love, Adrienne Houghton, Tamera Mowry-Housley and Jeannie Mai applauded Phoenix’s profound words.
“It was powerful,” Love remarked. “He went in so bad he forgot his BAFTA. He walked off and [I] was like, “You left your BAFTA!’”
Though it appeared some members of the audience looked “uncomfortable,” Houghton noted that these awkward feelings are necessary to incite change.
“For the first time, just watching it back, we were looking at the people in the room. And they were, like, uncomfortable. And it’s actually that they were uncomfortable. I think that was the point of this speech,” Adrienne noted. “You gotta shake it up. You gotta feel uncomfortable to recognize change has to happen.”
Seales elaborated on this point, adding, “You know what happens when you’re uncomfortable? You adjust… So a lot of times people don’t want to be made to be uncomfortable, but it really does enforce a shift. So I think it was great.”
Houghton also mentioned that viewers can champion diversity just by watching television shows — such as “The Real” — that promote it.
“Even what you watch, your ratings are counted as a vote, technically,” the actress/singer exclaimed. “If you give viewership to certain television shows, like ours here showing diversity, it shows networks that this is what we want to see. We want to see diversity on our television.”
Despite the disappointing nominations, talent such as Awkwafina, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and winner Micheal Ward were honored in the EE Rising Star Award category.