Cynthia Erivo Says She Declined To Perform At BAFTAs Due To All-White Categories


Cynthia Erivo said she declined an invitation to perform at the 2020 British Academy Film Awards due to the glaring lack of diversity among the nominees in the acting categories.

The “Harriet” actor, who portrayed the heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman in the 2019 film, told The Associated Press on Friday that it “didn’t feel right” to sing at an event that only represented talent from white actors.

“I have a responsibility to represent women of color and people of color in film and TV,” she said. “To perform … to celebrate something like that, that way, didn’t feel right.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Erivo said that the nominee list “wasn’t representative of what we saw this year in film at all.”

The academy came under fire earlier this week when it unveiled its list of 2020 nominees, which featured only white actors in four categories: Leading Actor, Leading Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress.

Erivo joins a list of Black actors and actors of color who were snubbed for this year’s ceremony, including Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite Is My Name,” Lupita Nyong’o for “Us,” Awkwafina for “The Farewell” and Jennifer Lopez for “Hustlers.”

Murphy, Awkwafina and Lopez all scored 2020 Golden Globe nominations, with Awkwafina making history as the first Asian woman to win a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a musical or comedy motion picture.

The academy was also criticized after it was revealed that no women had been nominated in the directing category.

BAFTA did not immediately return a request for comment.

Emma Baehr, BAFTA’s director of awards, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday that while the academy would “have liked to have seen more diversity in the nominations, it does continue to be an industry-wide issue.”

“I think more films need to be made, and entered, giving people a chance to see them,” she continued. “We’d absolutely like to see more diversity, but I also don’t want to take away from those celebrating today.”

During an interview with Extra on Friday, Erivo said that the invitation to perform was “calling on me as an entertainer as opposed to a person who is a part of the world of film.”

“It’s not something you can just throw in as a party trick. … I work and everyone works hard ― every single person of color who is working in these films this year has worked really hard, and there are many of them that deserve to be celebrated,” she said, adding her disappointment that women were shut out of the directing category.