As reported by The Playlist today, Viola Davis has been submitted in the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role category for Fences for the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Now, it’s no secret that I’ve rallied against the rumors of this for months; Davis won the Tony for this role in Lead and herself spoke in an interview that her role had been expanded for the film and that she’s in virtually every scene. Paramount Pictures, who is releasing Fences, recently had said they hadn’t made up their mind or talked to Davis about it yet. That was enough for me to see her not agreeing to be pushed down to supporting even in the face of some very formidable competition. But what this does, if it translates to the Oscars as well, is take away her ability to make history by being the first black actress to be nominated in Lead twice, not to mention be the first to win since Halle Berry 15 years ago.
Right now, the Best Actress Oscar category remains a very heated and full race. With Davis out (presuming, again, she is all the way to the Oscars) that improves the status for everyone else in the running and those just bubbling under. Natalie Portman (Jackie) and Emma Stone (La La Land) lead the pack with Annette Bening (20th Century Women), Amy Adams (Arrival), Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins),Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Ruth Negga (Loving) and Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) vying to be in the top 5. Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) could also be a late game-changer here.
In retrospect it’s a smart move for Paramount – they had three actresses (Davis, Adams, Streep) contending for one of those five slots.
With Davis in supporting, it does mark a very clear path to a win, knocking out frontrunner Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea) and Naomie Harris (Moonlight), both of whom have minimal screentime and likely won’t be able to maintain their current leads. The supporting category also features the return of Nicole Kidman (Lion), Greta Gerwig (20th Century Women), and two from Hidden Figures – Janelle Monáe and previous Oscar winner in this category, Octavia Spencer.
Fences, which recently just finished post-production, will be out on Christmas Day in limited release, going wider in January.