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Viola Davis & Allison Janney React to Lack of Diversity in 2020 Oscar Nominations

Monday morning’s Oscar nominations rebooted the #OscarsSoWhite conversation, reigniting discussion about representation after women were shut out of the directing category and only one person of color — Cynthia Erivo — was nominated in the acting categories.

At the premiere of Amazon Original’s “Troop Zero” at The Grove in Los Angeles on Monday evening, the film’s stars, Oscar winners Viola Davis and Allison Janney, shared their take.

“I think that there’s a lot of very important things that are happening in the world other than Oscar nominations. A lot of deeper things that’s happening in the world,” Davis, who attended the premiere with her daughter, Genesis Tennon, told Variety.

“When I entered this business, I did not enter it with awards in mind,” Davis, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actress in 2017, continued. “I entered it to be a storyteller and to be an artist, and I think that’s what we need to focus on. We need to focus on creating really awesome movies that tell diverse stories with people of color in them, and then we can go from there.”

“I think we just have to keep talking about it and doing things,” Janney, the 2018 Oscar winner for best supporting actress, said. “It’s disappointing. I think the conversation…it’ll change. It just will by virtue of…a hundred years. One hundred years. All new people. It will. It’s just too slow. Very, very slow and disappointing. Disappointing for a lot of people.”

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Troop Zero’s” directors Bert and Bertie (a female directing duo) also shared their perspective. “We would’ve loved for that to have gone a different way today, but also those incredible filmmakers don’t make films to win Academy Awards, to get nominations,” Bert said, echoing Davis’ thoughts about focusing on the art and not the accolades. “They make films because they have stories to tell and they have found the people that they needed to find.”

“Things need to change in the awards circuit and we hope they will,” Bert continued. “But while that’s happening we just keep finding our drama and fighting our fights and telling the stories that need to be heard and sooner or later they’ll listen because they have no choice.”

Bert and Bertie felt their latest film “Troop Zero” was one such story. The film tells the tale of a motherless girl named Christmas (McKenna Grace), who dreams of life outside of the confines of her trailer park home in 1970s rural Georgia. When Christmas learns that the winners of an annual Birdie Scout talent competition will be included on a recording sent into space, it becomes her mission in life to join the Scouts and win the Jamboree. Davis stars as Miss Rayleen, who serves as a mother figure to Christmas, while Janney plays opposing troop leader Miss Massey. Davis and Janney reunite after previously starring together in 2011’s “The Help” and 2014’s “Get On Up.” Grace and Janney played mother and daughter in the Tonya Harding biopic in “I, Tonya.”

Explaining why they so strongly believed that that story needed to be told, Bertie said, “When we were reading the script, we realized that there’s never been a girl adventure film where it’s a group of girls that go on an adventure to achieve something greater than themselves by working together, not because of boys. But because they want to be greater than themselves.”

“Girls need to see themselves on screen working together and seeing the power in that,” Bertie continued. “That was one of the most fundamental things about this film and being a filmmaker.”

Bert & Bertie'Troop Zero' film premiere, Arrivals, Pacific Theatre at The Grove, Los Angeles, USA - 13 Jan 2020
CREDIT: Stewart Cook/Variety/Shutterstock

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