After the BAFTA Awards snubbed her and other actors of colour, Harriet star Cynthia Erivo is speaking out about turning down the show’s request for her to perform.
Erivo, who was nominated in 2019 for the BAFTA Rising Star award but lost to Black Panther’s Letitia Wright, told Extra that she declined the invitation due to the awards not celebrating the contributions of people of colour in the acting category. Not a single person of colour was nominated across all four acting categories this year.
“I felt like [the invitation] didn’t represent people of colour in the right light,” the actress explained. “It felt like it was calling on me as an entertainer as opposed to a person who was a part of the world of film, and I think that it’s important to make it known that it’s not something you throw in as a party trick, you know?”
Erivo was nominated at the Golden Globes in the Best Original Song category for her song “Stand Up,” which she wrote from the perspective of Harriet Tubman. “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from Rocketman took home the prize.
Erivo added to Extra that there are “many” people of colour who deserve to “be celebrated,” as well as “women directors” who were similarly snubbed this year. Not a single woman received a Best Director nod at the BAFTA Awards this year, nor did any film directed by a woman get a nomination in the Best Film category.
The BAFTA nominations come after Awkafina made history as the first woman of Asian descent to receive a Golden Globe in the acting category for her film The Farewell. Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Ana de Armas (Knives Out), Antonio Banderas (Pain & Glory), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), and Erivo were also nominated at the Globes. In the film categories at the SAG Awards, Erivo was nominated for Harriet, as was Lopez for Hustlers. In addition, Lupita Nyong’o received a nod for Us and Jamie Foxx one for Just Mercy.
“Infuriating lack of diversity in the acting noms,” Marc Samuelson, chair of BAFTA’s film committee, told Variety. “It’s just a frustration that the industry is not moving as fast as certainly the whole BAFTA team would like it to be.”
“We would like there to be more diversity in the nominations, but this continues to be an industry-wide issue,” Emma Baehr, director of awards and membership, added to the outlet. “We’d like to see more diverse nominations and we will work harder and push the industry more. But that shouldn’t take away from those who were nominated [this year].”
Refinery29 reached out to the BAFTAs and Erivo for comment.