Will Smith has joined his wife Jada Pinkett Smith in calling out the Academy Awards for its all-white slate of acting nominees. Neither star will attend the Oscars on Feb. 28.
“My wife’s not going. It would be awkward for me to show up with Charlize [Theron],” Smith joked during an interview with Good Morning America on Thursday. “No, we’ve discussed it and we’re a part of this community, but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say this is okay.”
The 47-year-old is the latest star to speak out against the Oscars’ lack of diversity joining Spike Lee, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and George Clooney, among many others. (“If you think back 10 years ago, the Academy was doing a better job,” Clooney wrote in a piece for Variety.)
“I think diversity is the American superpower. That’s why we’re great. So many different people from so many different places adding their ideas, their inspiration and influences to this beautiful American gumbo,” Smith said. “For me, at it’s best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and the Hollywood community great. So when I look at the series of nominations from the Academy, it’s not reflecting that beauty.”
Smith added, “The nominations reflect the Academy, the Academy reflects the industry – reflects Hollywood. The industry reflects America. It reflects a series of challenges we’re having in our country at the moment. There’s a regressive slide towards racial and religious disharmony. That’s not the Hollywood I want to leave behind. […] That’s not the America I want to leave behind.”
Smith has been nominated for two Oscars in the past, and both times he lost to other black actors: Denzel Washington for Training Day and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. “To me, that was huge,” Smith said of his Oscar experiences. “So when I see this list and series of nominations that come out – and everybody is fantastic. That’s the complexity of this issue. […] But it feels like it’s going in the wrong direction.”
In the wake of last week’s nominations, Pinkett Smith recorded a video message calling out the Academy Awards, and saying that she would not attend the ceremony. On Thursday, Smith said he was “knocked over” by his wife’s remarks, noting that he “appreciated the push” from her.
“There’s a position we hold in this community, and if we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem,” Smith said. “It was her call to action for herself and for me and our family to be a part of the solution.”
Asked by Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts if Pinkett Smith’s commentary on the awards was in part due to Smith’s own snub for Concussion, the actor admitted “there’s probably a part of that in there.” But, he added, “for Jada, had I been nominated and no other people of color were, she would have made the video anyway. We’d still be here having the conversation anyway. This is so deeply not about me. This is about children who are going to sit down and watch the show and not see themselves represented.”
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Smith said that while Hollywood has historically been a progressive community, it needed to “get out front” of the diversity issues facing the industry.
“There’s a disharmony that’s brewing in our country and in our industry – I want no parts of that,” he said. “This is a marriage. I look at it as this sort of big, giant, multi-interracial marriage. Sometimes dysfunctional. But the marriage is in a space where divorce is not an option. We’re all in this together. We have to figure it out. We have to make it right.”