We already knew that Jessica Chastain was a queen onscreen. She destroyed it on the regular in 2014, killing it in four films released this year, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, and Miss Julie. She earned herself a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for A Most Violent Year, and just yesterday she was honored at the Critic’s Choice Awards with first-ever MVP Award, an honor given to “an extraordinary actor for their work in several standout movies throughout a single year.”
Rather than use her speech time to talk about herself, how great she is, or how much she loves her parents and her agent (which you totally are allowed to do when you win a big, fancy film-type award, especially if you’re the first EVER recipient) Chastain instead, after talking about how proud she was to be “a valuable part of a team,” and thanking her fellow team members, used her remaining time to talk about diversity in Hollywood.
The Oscar nominations (which also came out yesterday) troubled many. All 20 acting nominees were white, making the 2015 Oscars the whitest Oscars since 1998. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite has been trending hardcore ever since. This was a moment to talk about the issue of diversity in the entertainment industry and Chastain gracefully rose to the challenge.
“Today is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, so it got me thinking about our need to build the strength of diversity in our industry, and to stand together against homophobic, sexist, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and racist agendas,” Chastain said. “I’m an optimist, and I can’t help but feel hopeful about the future of film, especially looking at all these beautiful people in this room. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ And I would like to encourage everyone in this room to please speak up.”
Chastain said what so many people in that room (and outside that room) were thinking: diversity must happen and we are the ones to make it happen. She advocated speech over silence and response over inaction. In her speech, Chastain role-modeled what an ally can look and sound like. She did not point fingers or place blame but she also loudly and clearly spoke her truth and called others to action.
The full speech is below (Chastain comes in at the 3:10 mark) and is well worth the watch: