After wife Jada Pinkett-Smith vowed not to attend the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony due to the show’s lack of ethnically diverse nominees, actor and two-time Oscar nominee Will Smith has vowed to do the very same.
“We’re part of this community but at this current time, we’re uncomfortable to stand there and say that this is OK.”
The Concussion star, who many believe was snubbed for a Best Actor nomination for his role in the latter, spoke candidly to Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts in an interview shown on Thursday (Jan. 21) about the serious issue that goes beyond Hollywood and the film industry.
“I think that diversity is the American superpower,” Smith explained. “That’s why we’re great. So many different people from so many different places adding their ideas, their inspiration and their influences to this beautiful American gumbo. You know, and for me… at its best, Hollywood represents and then creates the imagery for that beauty. But for my part, I think that I have to protect and fight for the ideals that make our country and make our Hollywood community great.”
But when he sees the nominees up for the acting awards in 2016, Smith says he does not see a reflection of the beauty he envisions. This year, all of the nominees up for Best Actor/Actress, Supporting Actor/Actress wins are white.
“Everyone [nominated] is beautiful and deserving and is fantastic, but it feels like it’s going the wrong direction,” explained the Philly native on this year’s nominees. “The nominations reflect the Academy. The Academy reflects the industry and then the industry reflects America…there is a regressive slide towards separatism, towards racial and religious disharmony and that’s not the Hollywood that I want to leave behind. That’s not the industry, that’s not the America I want to leave behind.”
Roberts then brought up Pinkett-Smith’s video, in which she called for others to boycott the awards to elicit a change in the system. Will, who was unaware Jada would be doing a video due to being out of the country, is standing by his wife and her vocality.
“She’s deeply passionate, and when she is moved, she has to go,” he said. “I heard her words, and I was knocked over. I was happy to be married to that woman. But I appreciated the push. There’s a position that we hold in this community, and if we’re not a part of the solution, we’re a part of the problem. It was her call to action for herself, for me and for our family to be a part of the solution.”
Jada’s video was met with both praise and criticism. Criticism came most notably from former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actress, Janet Hubert. In a video response, Hubert says she believes Mrs. Smith only made a video about the lack of diversity because her husband did not receive a nomination this year.
“There’s probably a part of that in there but, for Jada, had I been nominated and no other people of color were, she would have made the video anyway,” Smith said of the controversy behind his wife’s video. “We’d still be here having this conversation. This is so deeply not about me. This is about children that are going to sit down and they’re going to watch this show and they’re not going to see themselves represented.”
What’s next? Smith says that he will continue to fight, and will continue his mission of leaving the industry “in better shape” than it originally was. He and his wife would not be alone in their crusade- industry heavyweights such as Spike Lee, George Clooney and Lupita Nyong’o have also spoken out about this issue, which transcends color lines.
“Part of the beauty of this country is the ability to disagree. Part of what makes us great is, historically, the best answer tends to win,” Smith said. “I say, let’s keep debating. Let’s do our best to keep it in love and keep it in light.”