As much as the 2016 Oscars red carpet was about fashion, the stars had something else on their mind: the diversity controversy. Actors like Tina Fey, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, and Mark Ruffalo used their pre-show interviews to speak their mind on the award show’s biggest problem.
While actors like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith publicly announced their decision to skip the ceremony, Goldberg told People that for her, boycotting was never on the table. “Boycotts—to me—are a pain in the butt,” she said. “If you want to [boycott]… don’t go see the movie… If we’re not here, then we’re not really here.”
Washington also asserted that she was proud to participate as a presenter. “I really respect and actually admire some of the people who are not here tonight, I really get it, but for me, I felt like my voice—in my heart—my voice is best used at the table,” Washington said on the red carpet, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Even Mark Ruffalo, who has been making headlines for supporting sexual abuse victims after his Oscar-nominated role in Spotlight, spoke about the issue. "I think it's time for our country to have this discussion in an earnest way," he said before the show began.
Luckily, the Academy chose a host who would be willing to address the controversy with intelligence and humor. Before the show, Fey said she trusts no one more than host Chris Rock to give the issue the attention it deserves.
“Can he fix the world tonight with his jokes?” the actress asked E!'s Ryan Seacrest. “I think he’s the best person to try.”
And try he did. Rock opened up the show with a powerful monologue about the lack of opportunity in Hollywood for African Americans. “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” he joked. “You realize if they nominated the host, I wouldn’t even get this job. You’d all be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now.”
The host went on to say that he thought about quitting, but realized the show would go on without him. “It’s not about boycotting anything,” he said. “It’s just, we want opportunity. We want the black actors to get the same opportunities.”
After all of the attention that these stars brought to the issue, we’re hoping that change is sure to come.