Things seem to be looking up for African American actresses. Every year since Halle's Academy win, there has been an African American actress up for an Oscar.
This year Oscar buzz is swarming around two in particular. Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis.
Taraji is best known for her role as Jody's baby momma, Yvette, in Baby Boy (2001). That movie cracks me up. Yet she has forged a reputation as a serious actress in the years since, most notably as Shug, a prostitute with a heart of gold, in Hustle and Flow (2005).
Henson costars with Brad Pitt as Queenie in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The kicker - she didn't think she even had a shot at the role when she was the number one choice from the gate.
CNN: What was your reaction when you first got the role of Queenie?
Taraji Henson: I was blown away because I didn't think I had a shot. It's a big, major studio film [with] big names like Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt attached and a huge director, David Fincher. I just didn't think that they would go for me because I'm not considered a name in Hollywood — yet! Hopefully this movie will do it. I later found out that, actually, my performance in "Hustle and Flow" got me this film. Laray Mayfield, who casts Fincher's films, saw me in "Hustle and Flow" and actually called him while she was in the theater and said, "I think I found Queenie." And, literally, she went to him and said, "You can make your job difficult and watch all of these audition tapes, or you can just hire this girl." And he trusted her. SOURCE
I love stories like this. She goes on to say that it is all about being patient and having faith. I really hope she wins.
Also in contention, is the veteran actress Viola Davis. An alum of The Juilliard School, Davis made her mark in theater garnering a Tony for her role in King Hedley II (2001). You may know her from Law & Order: SVU.
Davis costars with Meryl Streep in Doubt.
There is a slow hum about the The Secret Life of Bees still being a possible contender. Bees costarred four women of color alongside Dakota Fanning. Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Sophie Okenodo, and Alicia Keys may sweeten the Oscar pot. The Golden Globe nominees are announced on December 11th and that is typically a precursor to the Oscars. So, I will keep you posted.
I guess I will be watching again this year.