Viola Davis Goes for Lead Actress and History-Making Noms for ‘The Woman King,’ Thuso Mbedu Campaigns Supporting

There has never been a Black woman nominated for best picture or actress. Viola Davis could be the first.

“The Woman King” has become one of the year’s standout hits, with plans to compete in the awards races for both significant and artisan category attention after two weeks of great box office showings, excellent reviews, and passionate fan responses.

Thuso Mbedu, who plays the young Nawi in the film, will be lobbying for supporting actress recognition, Variety has learned. Viola Davis (“Fences”), the Academy Award winner, will be the only actress running for lead actress.

Mbedu, the breakout star of filmmaker Barry Jenkins’ Emmy-nominated series “The Underground Railroad,” will compete in supporting roles alongside co-stars Sheila Atim, Jayme Lawson, Adrienne Warren, and, most notably, Lashana Lynch. All male actors, including John Boyega, will compete in the supporting actor category.

Beginning with Olivia de Havilland and winner Hattie McDaniel in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), we’ve seen 35 films receive two nominations for supporting actress throughout Oscar history. This happened last with Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz in “The Favourite” (2018).

There has only been one case of two Black women being nominated in the same category for the same film – Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey for “The Color Purple” (1986). It has only happened once in any other acting category: the stunning double dip of eventual winner Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield (who was campaigned in the lead) for “Judas and the Black Messiah” (2021).

Can Mbedu and Lynch both gain attention from the actor’s branch? With the recent announcement that Michelle Williams is pursuing a nomination for lead actress, their chances have increased dramatically, even if many believe Mbedu is more of a lead in “The Woman King.”

Davis has been breaking barriers at the Academy for several years. She is already the most nominated Black woman in history with four nominations. She is also the first person to be nominated for best actress twice. If she receives another nomination for her role as commander and combat fighter Nanisca, she will be the first Black woman to be nominated for a film on which she also worked as a producer.

If “The Woman King” is nominated for best picture, Davis will be the third Black woman nominated in the category, following Oprah Winfrey (“Selma”) and Kimberly Steward (“Manchester by the Sea”). If set for acting and producing in the same year, she will be the first Black woman and the second woman ever to do it. Frances McDormand received both awards for her performance in “Nomadland” (2020). For context, Warren Beatty and Clint Eastwood have done this numerous times.

To add to the excitement, her co-star, co-producer, and husband Julius Tennon, would also be nominated, making this the first time a married pair has received a best picture nomination in the same year.

In the history of the Oscars, six Black males have been nominated for directing: John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood”), Lee Daniels (“Precious”), Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”), Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”), Jordan Peele (“Get Out”), and Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”). Despite close calls and outrageous snubs for artists like Ava DuVernay and Regina King, no Black woman has been nominated. Gina Prince-Bythewood, a director, could be the first.

Terence Blanchard became the first Black composer to be nominated for best original score twice, following “Da 5 Bloods” (2020). He has the potential to break that record. That same year, two Black composers were nominated for the first time, one of which was eventual winner Jon Batiste for “Soul” (along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross).

Polly Morgan, a cinematographer, aims to join Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) and Ari Wegner (“The Power of the Dog”) as the category’s only female nominees.

Terilyn A. Shropshire, the editor, would be the third Black nominee and the second Black woman, following Hugh A. Robertson (“Midnight Cowboy”) and Joi McMillon (“Moonlight”).

As of now, Hannah Beachler’s historic Oscar win for “Black Panther” (2018) is the only winner and nominee for Black production designers. Akin McKenzie’s founding of the Dahomey monarchy in the nineteenth century could make him second.

“The Woman King,” written by Dana Stevens, has now grossed $36.2 million at the domestic box office. It is hoping to extend its remarkable streak into the Oscar season.

FAQs

All Viola Davis Movies, Ranked by Tomatometer
  • #1. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) 97% #1. …
  • #2. The Woman King (2022) 94% #2. …
  • #3. Fences (2016) 92% #3. …
  • #4. Widows (2018) 91% #4. …
  • #5. The Suicide Squad (2021) 90% #5. …
  • #6. State of Play (2009) 84% #6. …
  • #7. Prisoners (2013) 81% #7. …
  • #8. Get On Up (2014) 80% #8.

How did Viola Davis become well-known?

Viola Davis Wins Lead Actress Role in ‘The Woman King,’ Image
Her breakout act as a troubled mother in the 2008 thriller Doubt earned her her first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Davis experienced more significant success in the 2010s.

Is Viola Davis a religious person?

MY FAITH STRENGTHENS ME “I am a God believer,” she added. “I feel that sometimes you have to hand everything up to a higher power since sometimes I don’t have the answers and will never have them.”

Is Viola Davis’s film available on Netflix?

The Sony film starring Viola Davis will be available on Netflix in the United States and India over the next year. The Woman King, the highly awaited new Viola Davis film, is about to enter theatres throughout the world and will be available on Netflix in two territories within the next year, with more to follow later.

Who has won the acting Triple Crown?

With seven Triple Crown victories, Dame Maggie Smith holds the record. Rita Moreno, Jeremy Irons, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Al Pacino, Frances McDormand, Jessica Lange, Geoffrey Rush, Ellen Burstyn, Glenda Jackson, and Viola Davis are the only living Triple Crown winners.