Following the snub of Michaela Coel’s searing I May Destroy You from the list of Golden Globe nominations …
TBB shines a light on other Black British contributions that missed out, come award time.
When the Golden Globe nominations were announced at the beginning of February there was a collective shaking of the head, probably followed by a lot of kissed teeth at the glaring omission of Michaela Coel’s devastatingly brilliant, I May Destroy You. Appearing on any discerning viewer’s list of favourite shows of 2020 including President Obama’s, the multi-layered drama sparked much-needed discussions about rape and consent. However, writer, co-director, exec producer, and lead actor Coel’s recognition for her multi-hyphenate achievements, was all but ignored by The Hollywood Foreign Press Association made up of some 90 journalists. Perhaps they were too busy watching Emily in Paris which garnered nominations for both Best Actress and Best Television Series. Yes, really. We can only hope the BAFTA Television Awards which takes place later this year gives Coel a shelf full of statuettes.
But of course, this isn’t the first instance of black talent being overlooked come awards season. The history of film and television is littered with examples of well-deserving black creatives both onscreen and off either not making the shortlist, or if nominated, having to clap politely with a fixed grin as a less-deserving nominee walks off with the golden statue. In recent years, organisations like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars) and BAFTA have taken steps to redress the balance highlighted by 2016’s #Oscarssowhite movement by widening the diversity of their voting members base. Last year The Academy also introduced the requirement that all nominees for Best Picture from 2022 must satisfy at least two of four standards in diversity and inclusion for both onscreen and offscreen representation. But in the meantime, to right past wrongs, TBB presents just a few of those television and film contributions that should’ve received some award respect on their name.
Michaela Coel – Best Drama Series, Best Actress, and Best Director in a Drama Series, I May Destroy You
See above. Enough said, moving on.
Letitia Wright – Best Actress in a Television Supporting Role, Mangrove (2020)
Steve McQueen’s anthology series Small Axe captured the trials and tribulations, loves, and lives of the West Indian community in London’s ‘70s and ‘80s. But it’s Letitia Wright’s electrifying presence in Mangrove as British activist Altheia Jones-LeCointe, that captures the attention. When the despondent defendants are ready to give up and plead guilty to trumped-up charges of inciting a riot, her rallying speech not to give in reaches out of the screen and calls to the audience beyond.
Tbh Letitia’s co-stars in Mangrove Shaun Parkes who played Frank Crichlow and Malachi Kirby who delivered a pitch-perfect performance as Darcus Howe also deserve award recognition.
Kano – Best Actor in a Television Drama Series, Top Boy Series 3 (2019)
Most of the press for this Netflix reboot of the Chanel 4 drama centred on Drake’s involvement in getting the series greenlit, but it’s Kane Brett Robinson’s continued portrayal of the troubled Sully that will remain long in the memory. Although recognised by BAFTA throughout the show’s three-season run for its outstanding scripts, haunting cinematography and recognising new talents such as Letitia Wright and Michael Ward, leads Ashley Walters and Kano were always bereft during the awards run. Mainstream media loved to point out that many of the cast were familiar with the world they were portraying on screen. As if the actors were just being themselves, rather than committing some of the finest performances seen on the small screen in years. By season three Robinson was able to instil his character’s entire backstory with a single melancholic glance.
Daniel Kaluuya – Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Widows (2018)
For many their introduction to the talent that is Daniel Kaluuya was as the hapless boyfriend in Jordan Pele’s horror meets social commentary, Get Out (2017). So, when met with his stone-cold depiction of killer Jatemme Manning in Oscar-winning Steve McQueen’s remake of Widows, he had us shook. With a dead-eyed stare usually only seen in sharks, the malignant sense of menace in Kaluuya’s supporting turn pervaded every scene in which he appeared and marked the emergence of a next-level acting talent. Daniel may have missed out on a much-deserved Oscar nod for his mesmerising turn in this 2018 thriller, but we have a feeling that there will be many ‘and the award goes to’ moments in his not-too-distant future.
Ruth Negga – Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Loving (2016)
Up against the Oscar magnet that is Meryl Streep, our hopes for Negga taking home the 2016 Oscar for Best Actress were already dimmed. But Negga’s delicate performance as Mildred Loving, one half of an interracial couple exiled for being married in 1950’s Virginia, was so masterfully understated we still had our fingers crossed. But it wasn’t to be. Hollywood and the box-office fell in love with the story of Ryan Gosling’s pianist saving the genre of jazz and instead, Emma Stone high-kicked her way to winning the award for La La Land.
debbie tucker green – Best Director / Screenwriter, Second Coming (2014)
The elusive award-winning and critically acclaimed playwright and filmmaker debbie tucker green’s debut feature film Second Coming was a beautiful and intimate look at a couple who are dealing with an unexplained pregnancy. Starring Nadine Marshall and Idris Elba as the central characters tucker green did what she did best with her honest yet sparse dialogue and authentic capturing of British Black culture. She was nominated for a BAFTA in the Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer category but lost to Naji Abu Nowar (writer/director) and Rupert Lloyd (producer) for Theeb.
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Best Actor in a Motion Picture 12 Years a Slave (2013)
Remember how harrowing it was to watch 12 Years? Then just imagine the weight of responsibility felt in bringing Solomon Northup’s life to the screen. Not taking anything away from Matthew McConaughey’s performance in The Dallas Buyers Club which eventually took the Oscar, but Ejiofor’s pathos-filled portrayal of the free man sold into slavery was brutal but essential viewing.
Steve McQueen – Best Director of a Motion Picture, Hunger (2008)
Yes, McQueen rightly received a nomination for the epic 12 Years a Slave, but it was his feature directorial debut Hunger that should have first placed his name on the list of hopefuls. The political drama focused on the hunger strike by Irish Republican Bobby Sands and prisoners of Northern Ireland’s Maize Prison in 1981 is told with a skilfully even-hand and unflinching lens.
Idris Elba – Best Actor in a Television Supporting Role, The Wire (2002 – 2004)
Before the Sexiest Man Alive awards, the questionable role choices, and the segues into kick-boxing, race car driving, and hit-song creating there was simply Elba’s refined portrayal of scholarly gangster Stringer Bell. Appearing in seasons one to three, Elba unfairly failed to receive not one Emmy or Golden Globe nomination for his career-making performance. Running from 2002-2008, the series and that would later come to top many critics lists of the greatest TV series ever, never garnered a single best series or acting nod.