Ahead of Quantico‘s Sunday night debut on CTV, the world was very much focused on its star, Priyanka Chopra, and what her incredible fame as a Bollywood star could potentially bring to North American television. Now that the premiere is out of the way and everyone has seen the complex, multicultural roles offered on the show, it’s time to tackle the motion-picture box office.
At least according to Quantico star Aunjanue Ellis, that is.
“I’m excited about what’s happening on television. And not just in terms of the faces that you see but the kind of stories that are told by the faces that you see,” she said from the Montreal set recently. “The opposite is happening in film. If you watch any of the fall commercials, you’re not going to see one black face.”
Ellis, who appeared in box office hits like The Help, Ray and Men of Honor, is also coming off a run as the leading lady in the televised miniseries The Book of Negroes, based on the novel by Canadian Lawrence Hill. In Quantico, she plays Miranda Shaw, one of Chopra’s on-screen mentors and a figure of authority at the training base.
The 46-year-old points to Idris Elba and Zoe Saldana as rare exceptions of names that might pop up at the Oscars, noting she thought the Academy would had learned its lesson after last year’s embarrassing ballots.
“You would think after what happened last year, when not one person of colour was nominated at all, that you would see more people of colour,” she said. “They haven’t got the message. It’s very, very bizarre. Filmmakers are making these decisions that are just completely out of line and out of sync with what the world is interested in seeing. I think people just want to see great stories and they don’t care what the storyteller looks like.”
All right, so the movies definitely need a little work, but given the recent awards given out to people of colour during the Emmys, we’d say television is starting to come around in a big way. Between Viola Davis‘s big win for her role on How to Get Away With Murder and Uzo Aduba‘s record-tying win for her role in Orange is the New Black, there was plenty to celebrate. And Ellis agrees.
“I thought Viola’s speech was beautiful and I think she’s right. These women of colour can’t be nominated for things if they don’t get the opportunity to play these roles. And the same thing will happen with the Oscars. Women of colour can’t get Oscars if there are no roles to play.”