Viola Davis received the fourth Academy Award nomination of her career for her role as the title character in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. The South Carolina native, 55, was previously tied with Octavia Spencer for most nominations by a Black actress at the yearly awards show — but Davis is now in the lead. She is also the first Black woman to have two best actress nominations following her 2011 nod for The Help.
“Absolutely thrilled!! Congratulations to the whole Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom team. Deserved,” the How to Get Away With Murder alum tweeted after news of her nomination made headlines. The film scored five nominations in total, including Davis for best actress and the late Chadwick Boseman for best actor.
After years of being called out for the lack of diversity in their nominations, the Academy Awards championed representation with the 2021 list. Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed join Boseman in the running for best actor, marking the first time an Asian American actor and a member of the Muslim community are in contention for the award.
“I’m honored to be nominated by my fellow actors alongside such inspiring performances, and am grateful to the Academy for their support and encouragement,” Ahmed, 38, noted in a statement to Us Weekly on Monday, celebrating the team behind his critically acclaimed film, Sound of Metal. “These nominations represent the time, generosity and talents of so many — all of our incredible cast, crew, producers, and in particular, I’d like to thank my mentors in the drumming, addiction recovery and D/deaf communities.”
The Emmy winner continued: “Sound of Metal is about how a health crisis can cut you off from your life and loved ones, and force you to grow in unexpected ways. In a challenging year for so many, I hope this story can inspire us to forge new and deeper connections with ourselves and others.”
For his part, Yeun, 37, made big strides for Asian-American representation with his performance in Lee Isaac Chung‘s Minari. During a virtual interview with Good Morning America earlier this month, the Walking Dead alum opened up about what it means to be a Hollywood “first.”
Yeun said at the time, “For me, I’m just an actor trying to do my thing and it seems like sometimes the discussion around being the first Asian-American … I’m just trying to do me. I’m Asian-American and I proudly wear that on my face. So, I’m just doing what I can.”
Keep scrolling to see all the ways this year’s Oscar nominees made history!