Will Smith Offers a New Perspective On the Academy and #OscarsSoWhite

January 31st 2016

Kylie Cheung

In a Friday interview with BBC Breakfast, "Concussion" star Will Smith talked about his personal choice to boycott the 2016 Oscars, and offered a balanced perspective on the Academy and recent backlash it's faced for nominating all white actors two years in a row.



Smith said he was "very pleased" with the Academy's promise to make "historic" changes to its membership, pledging to double its female and minority members by 2020. He offered leveled praise for how "quickly and aggressively" the Academy responded.

Charlie caught up with Will Smith to talk about his Oscars boycott, his new film Concussion and about his dream dinner party that came true.

Posted by BBC Breakfast on Friday, January 29, 2016

Although Smith remained critical of the situation at hand, as a member of the Academy himself, he views its current weakness for diversity as an issue they must unite and work together to solve. To Smith, this shouldn't be a divisive issue.

"I think that it's not 'us and them,' it's 'we,'" Smith said. "I'm a member of the Academy, so it's much more of a domestic family issue than it is a civil rights issue, so it's a problem 'we' all have to solve."

His message of uniting to address the problem matches with his reasoning for supporting and joining his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, in boycotting the award ceremony. (Pinkett Smith released a video earlier this month explaining why she would be boycotting the Ocars this year.)

"There's a position that we hold in this community. If we're not a part of the solution we're part of the problem," he said, in an interview with Good Morning America last week. "And it was her call to action for herself and for me and for our family to be a part of the solution."

In the same BBC interview, Smith also affirmed that his decision to boycott the Oscars was not made because the Academy overlooked his performance in "Concussion."

"I want to be very clear about the spirit of what I'm saying. This is far beyond me," Smith said. "This has nothing to do with me. This has nothing to do with awards. Awards are a really frivolous reason for me to put my hand up and make a statement. For me, this is much more about the idea of diversity and inclusion."

The Academy faced serious criticism from actors like Smith, Pinkett Smith, director Spike Lee, and notable black activists like Shaun King this year, when the 20 actors it nominated in the acting categories included not one person of color. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite resurfaced on social media quickly after nominations were announced.

Most notably, highly influential Black films and Black actors seemed to go unrecognized for another year. Although the critically acclaimed "Straight Outta Compton" was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, this credit went to its four white writers.

To many, this is an indicator of potential problems that emerge with a board of predominantly white male judges, which is why the Academy's pledge to double female and minority members has inspired praise.