After countless rumors and whispers, The Playlist has confirmed that Viola Davis will indeed be campaigned in Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film adaptation of Fences.
Davis, who was previously nominated twice for her supporting role in Doubt and her leading performance in The Help seemed like a no brainer winner after it was announced Fences would indeed be released this year. Many feel that Davis, who has worked a long time in the industry, has been owed a trophy for some time now; she was the favorite to win a few years ago but surprisingly lost to Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady. She also won a Tony award for this role when it was on Broadway a few years ago, and she’s recently been winning just about everything in sight for her work on the explosively popular How To Get Away With Murder. Fewer actresses have better campaign narratives than that.
However, it might be the success and filming obligations to her television show that influenced the decision to drop out of the Lead Actress race. The category is experiencing one of the most competitive years in recent history; Natalie Portman and Emma Stone are leading the category with their roles in Jackie and La La Land respectively, while fellow overdue actress Annette Bening is winning raves for 20th Century Women and Ruth Negga is experiencing a star making moment with Loving. After that, you have the always nominated Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, and Taraji P. Henson, Marion Cotillard; all are previous winners or nominees. There’s also cases being made for Isabelle Huppert and Kate Beckinsale this year. With Davis’ strict filming schedule, that means time usually devoted to campaigning and attending events in promotion of the film are cut, and a win is much less likely. Especially in such a competitive year.
Davis’ role in Fences has reportedly been beefed up for the film, but it’s traditionally a supporting role; Mary Alice won the Featured Actress Tony a few years back. The only reason why Davis went Lead when it was her turn was apparently because the Featured Actress category was stacked. So perhaps this is a fitting decision anyway? It is possible, however, that the Academy and voting bodies will reject this move if they feel it’s not fitting. Last year, the Golden Globes famously rejected Rooney Mara’s placement in Supporting by nominating her in Lead Actress (though SAG and the Oscars nominated her in Supporting). A few years ago, the Oscars nominated Kate Winslet in The Reader for Lead Actress after she had won a Golden Globe for Supporting Actress.
Over in Supporting Actress, things are much less crowded. Naomi Harris for Moonlight and Michelle Williams for Manchester By The Sea lead the category, with Harris having an edge at this state in the race. Moonlight is the most critically acclaimed film of the year, and is breaking limited release box office records. That’s great news, especially since it still hasn’t opened nationwide yet. Williams, on the other hand, is starring in a film that has been beloved since Sundance. After that, you have former winner Lupita Nyong’o for Queen of Katwe which, despite not being a hit at the box office, is critically acclaimed and played very well for Screen Actors Guild members at Toronto, where the film placed 3rd for the People’s Choice Award. 20th Century Women‘s Greta Gerwig is winning a lot of love for her performance, and with another beloved performance in a strong Best Picture contender (Jackie) her placement here only makes more sense.
So, how does Viola fit in to all of this? Well, I’d say she’s got it pretty much wrapped up (sight unseen). Though no one has seen the film (and if they have they’re not allowed to discuss it at this time) it’s hard to deny she’s the most obvious frontrunner. After losing twice, this is the Academy’s chance to honor her. By winning an Oscar, Davis would have the final trophy to join the club of actors who have won the “Triple Crown of Acting” (Emmy, Oscar, Tony) and she’s only a Grammy away from being an EGOT. That’s a pretty irresistible narrative, and again she won a Tony for the same role so the question of if she’s going to be great has already been answered.
If I were Viola Davis, I’d start making room on my mantle for an Academy Award.
Fences will be released later this year on December 25.