February 27, 2017
by Carla Hay
The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place on February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Here is what this Oscar winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.
How will you celebrate tonight, and who will you call first after the show?
My mom, for sure. And I’m going to go out with a bunch of my friends and dance and drink champagne. That’s pretty much the only plan.
What does it mean to you as one of the ones who dreamed to have won this award for playing this role that mimics what so many people in this city go through to get to the point of where you are standing right now?
Well, I guess surreal is probably the only way to describe it. I mean, to play this woman, I knew this. I’ve lived here for 13 years. I moved when I was 15 to start auditioning, and I knew what it felt like to go on audition after audition. So I mean anything like this was pretty inconceivable in a realistic context.
I had a really creepy little moment backstage—not to change the subject—but I was just like looking down at it, like it was my newborn child. This is a statue of a naked man. Very creepy staring at it. So hopefully, I will look at a newborn child differently. But I mean it’s, yeah, it’s incredibly surreal. I don’t have the benefit of hindsight yet. Sorry if that’s a terrible answer. Turned it into a naked man story.
You know it’s a dream to get an Oscar. Did you ever dream like that? And what is the dream when they announced “La La Land” as the Best Picture, and it didn’t win?
Okay. So yes, of course. I’m an actor. I’ve always dreamt of this kind of thing, but again, not in a realistic context. And for that, I fucking love “Moonlight.” God, I love “Moonlight” so much! I was so excited for “Moonlight.” And of course, you know, it was an amazing thing to hear “La La Land.” I think we all would have loved to win Best Picture, but we are so excited for “Moonlight.”
I think it’s one of the best films of all time. So I was pretty beside myself. I also was holding my Best Actress in a Leading Role card that entire time. So, whatever story—I don’t mean to start stuff, but whatever story that was, I had that card. So I’m not sure what happened. And I really wanted to talk to you guys first. Congratulations, “Moonlight.” Hell, yeah.
Could you just speak a little bit to what the atmosphere was like after that nightmare? The atmosphere in here was crazy.
I think everyone’s in a state of confusion still. Excitement, but confusion. I don’t really have a gauge of the atmosphere quite yet. I need to, you know, check in. But I think everyone is just so excited, so excited for “Moonlight.” It’s such an incredible film.
How much does an Oscar cost in terms of sacrifice and discipline?
Oh, my God. Is that measurable? I don’t know. I guess it depends on the Oscar. In my life, I have been beyond lucky with the people around me, with the friends and family that I have and the people that have lifted me up throughout my life. So in terms of sacrifice, those people are all sitting back in a room right now and I get to go celebrate with them, and it’s felt like the most joyous thing. So, I mean, being a creative person does not feel like a sacrifice to me. It’s the great joy of my life. And so, I mean, I don’t know if that’s a good answer to that question, but I’ve been very lucky in terms of that.
As someone who’s been in Hollywood, you’ve experienced many things before. Are you able to give us sort of a word picture of what it was like? It was two minutes and 30 seconds that “La La Land” was named Best Picture of the year. What was it like on stage when you first thought it won, and then it didn’t win?
Again, I don’t know if this is a measurable question. Is that the craziest Oscar moment of all time? Cool! We made history tonight. Craziest moment. And again, I don’t even know what to say. I think I’m still on such a buzzy train backstage that I was, you know, on another planet already. So this has all just felt like another planet. But again, God I love “Moonlight” I’m so excited. I think it’s an incredible outcome, but a very strange happening for Oscar history.
Do you feel like owing Emma Watson a drink or dinner to thank her for turning down the role you got in “La La Land”?
Oh, my God, you know what? She’s doing great. She’s the coolest. She’s Belle [in “Beauty and the Beast”]. I think it’s all right. It’s all good. I think she’s amazing.
Being on the top of the world right now, does it humble you?
Well, we had a nice little jarring moment that’s just … like real life, but everything kind of feels like real life. Like this is an incredible, incredible honor and in many ways game-changing for me, personally, but it’s also just still me. And again, back to the people that I love, nothing changes when I go home. Nothing is going to change at all. So I don’t know that there’s a humbling moment. It’s just already like feels ridiculous, in the best way.