Barry Jenkins and the ‘Moonlight’ team backstage at the 2017 Academy Awards

February 27, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place on February, 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

“MOONLIGHT”

Oscar wins:

Best Picture (for producers Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner)

Best Adapted Screenplay (for Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney)

Best Supporting Actor (for Mahershala Ali)

Here is what these Oscar winners said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.

Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski and Barry Jenkins at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski and Barry Jenkins at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mike Baker/©A.M.P.A.S.)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

What went through your head when “La La Land” was announced the winner of Best Picture, and then just a couple of minutes later it was “Moonlight”?

Barry Jenkins (writer/director): I think all the movies that were nominated were worthy, so I accepted the results. I applauded like everyone else. I noticed the commotion that was happening, and I thought something strange had occurred.  And then I’m sure everybody saw my face. But I was speechless when the result … that was awkward, because I’ve watched the Academy Awards, and I’ve never seen that happen before. And so it made a very special feeling even more special, but not in the way I expected.

“Moonlight” feels a bit life‑changing because it’s such an experience of filmmaking for us as audience members. For you guys, being so involved in the project, what will you remember the most about this life‑changing experience for you?

Jenkins: The last 20 minutes of my life have been insane. I don’t think my life could be changed any more dramatically than what happened in the last 20 or 30 minutes. But I also think, too, working on this film with everyone here, all the cast that is somewhere drinking champagne, I’m sure, it’s just been otherworldly, I will say.

And I never expected so many people to see the film, but even a step further, so many people see themselves in the film. I was in Germany, and this guy stood up and said, “I’m from rural Germany, you know, and 20 minutes into this film, I didn’t see Alex Hibbert. I saw myself.” And that was how I felt in working on it. I had one idea of what I was doing, and then I realized that everyone else was bringing this other thing that was much more beautiful than my idea could ever be. So, yeah, beyond life‑changing.

Given the impact that “Moonlight” has had, do you think that this will help break down barriers for more stories about LGBT people of color?

Tarell Alvin McCraney (writer): The hope that we have today about telling stories is that those people, the ones who we are leaning on to make those stories, were watching and found the platform that they saw they could stand on.  I remember sitting back somewhere watching Dustin Lance Black accept for “Milk,” and thinking, “Maybe one day … me.” And here I am. So if that’s any indication, I hope we are moving in that vein.  I hope the storytellers up here and their proud journey here can imprint on someone out there watching, that they too can stand here too, and also tell their stories as daringly, as intimately as possible.

Jeremy Kleiner (producer): I might just add … because I didn’t get a chance to thank ‑‑ we didn’t get a chance to thank our courageous distributor, A24. This project didn’t really have a lot of comps. It was kind of outside of, like, the modeling of what, you know, a movie should be in terms of return on investment and that. And I think that this outcome for “Moonlight,” independently of tonight, but just the effect it’s had domestically around the world hopefully creates some incentives to make stories like this in all different forms.  So that ‑‑ and that was not far from our minds as well.

This question is for Barry Jenkins. What explanation were you given for the mixup tonight?

Jenkins: No explanation. Things just happen, you know? But I will say I saw two cards.  And so things just happen, you know? I wanted to see the card to see the card. And Warren [Beatty] refused to show the card to anybody before he showed it to me. And so he did. He came upstairs, and he walked over to me, and he showed the card.

Everybody was asking, Can I see the card? And he’s like, “No, Barry Jenkins has to see the card.  I need him to know.” And he showed it to me, and I felt better about what had happened. I will say to all you people, please write this down: The folks from “La La Land” were so gracious. We spent a lot of time together over the last six months, and I can’t imagine being in their position and having to do that. I wasn’t speechless because we won. I was speechless because it was so gracious of them to do that.

What did the card say?

Jenkins: The card said, “Best Picture: ‘Moonlight.’ Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski.” But there were two cards.

Did you all have speeches prepared for Best Picture?  And if so, what were you going to say?

Adele Romanski (producer): Yeah, we might have had a couple ideas. But I think the way that what went down, we kind of had to roll with it.  I feel good about what was said.  But I have to admit it was a bit of a fugue state, and I don’t know that I remember it. We didn’t thank people that we probably should have thanked.

Jenkins: Yeah, I absolutely wanted to thank A24 a thousand times because when I first set out to make this film with Adele, there was a budget that we had, and you guys know what the budget is now. It’s 1.5 [million dollars]. The budget we were offered before that was much, much smaller. And without us asking, they increased that budget because they believed in the project. They never told us to alter anything in that process.

So my whole acceptance speech was going to be in thanks to them, because it’s amazing to be Barry Jenkins right now, but it was not a year and a half ago for a guy who made a movie for $13,000 and hadn’t made a movie in seven years at that point. So I was going to give as much love to them as I possibly could with my time on the mic. And it’s unfortunate that things happened the way they did. But hot damn, we won Best Picture.

Barry, for you this has been a long time coming, and it’s been a long journey for you.  Ironically, the stories or the themes told in “La La Land” could apply to you as well. What are your feelings toward Los Angeles and this city and the people in it?

Jenkins: I love L.A.!  How could I not right now? You know, I’ll speak about “La La Land.” When I saw Justin [Horowitz, one of the producers of “La La Land”] at Telluride, I told him that I hadn’t been home in about two months. And I can see my apartment in the background of the opening shot of that film, and I was nostalgic for L.A., which is a crazy feeling for a guy from Miami who’s always had a hard time in L.A.

But you’re right. This is a fulfillment of a lot of things. And I also would have thanked Darnell Martin who gave me my first job in this city. Yeah, she took Chiron and said, Hey, come be my assistant and learn everything I have to teach you. So a lot of things have come full circle right now. This circle was much bigger than I ever could have imagined for myself or for this film.

But it feels good, man, you know. And I guess anything’s possible because most of the voters who voted us Best Picture, they reside here in Los Angeles, and yet they voted a film about a marginalized character from a marginalized community told in a very unorthodox way into Best Picture. And so, God bless L.A.

First off, why do you think that “Moonlight” resonated so deeply with audiences? And secondly, how do you think that winning this Oscar is going to change your life or your career?

Jenkins: I mean, my career, that part’s pretty clear. You know, I write an e‑mail, somebody’s going to reply at this point. Or I make a phone call, somebody is going to call back. So that part is cool.

But why this film? You know, I can’t say. I kind of took it off the table when we came to making this. I mean, Tarell put so much truth in what he wrote in the piece “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” I try to take truth and manifest it on screen. And the only thing I can speak to is that whatever authenticity, whatever fire this guy had in his belly, people saw it, and they reflected the same fire in their belly.

McCraney: Barry does this often where he deflects the fact that, you know, sure, I may have brought my truth to the table in the original script. However, what Barry continued to do when he rewrote the script and when he started shooting, when he started casting, when he was working with those actors, was continue to see himself in those moments, those intimate moments. And everybody can relate to that, because we all know that moment that we felt awkward, because Barry found the moment he was awkward, and he put it on screen.

And so for me, that’s the lightning rod that keeps bringing people back.  We’re putting our true feelings, our true selves there.  And this man did it, you know, in 25 days with a cast and crew who was in and out in Miami in the dreaded heat, but we did that with love and compassion and fullness.  I think that’s what keeps bringing people back to the cinema.

Casey Affleck backstage at the 2017 Academy Awards

February 27, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place on February, 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

CASEY AFFLECK

Oscar win:

Best Actor

(“Manchester by the Sea”)

KENNETH LONERGAN

Oscar win:

Best Original Screenplay

(“Manchester by the Sea”)

Here is what these Oscar winners said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

Casey Affleck at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Casey Affleck at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mike Baker/©A.M.P.A.S.)

What did you like about making this movie in Boston?

Casey Affleck (actor): Well, I like to work there because I know it so well and it still feels like home, so that’s sort of a bonus of getting to work on a movie that is in Boston.  There’s also a certain familiarity that helps the work, I think. But, you know, Kenny [Lonergan] writes with such incredible authenticity and specificity that it really was on the page, the whole feel of the place and the characters and everything.  So I could have been from anywhere else and I think I would have got it.

What do you think of the looming Writers Guild America talks? What are your thoughts? What are your wants? Do you think they should strike? 

Kenneth Lonergan (writer/director): Do I think they should strike? Well, I don’t think they should strike now because that would be premature. You know, obviously, I want to get as much as we can for ourselves without screwing anybody else. That’s a strange attitude to take in Hollywood, but that is the attitude I think that the union should take.

I would like to see someday in these negotiations some negotiations for more creative control for screenwriters working in the studio system. There’s a lot of complicated ancillary rights issues, especially nowadays, but the creative control issue is still pretty much the bottom rank could be for a working screenwriter in a studio system, and it would be nice if someday that was able to change.

Casey, you said something along the lines of you wished you had something meaningful to say. You said something fairly meaningful yesterday at the Independent Spirit Awards, but we were led to believe that this was going to be a very political Oscars, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. So why do you think that was?

Affleck: Why was it that there weren’t that many people who made remarks that were political? I think there were quite a few people who said some things that were sort of about their current global political situation and they’re also about … but were from a point of view of artists and they spoke about the importance of arts and so forth. I don’t know why more people didn’t.

It doesn’t entirely seem like an inappropriate place given the state of things. It seems like this is just as fine a platform as any to make some remarks so long they are respectful and positive. Personally, I didn’t say anything because my head was completely blank, the shock of winning the award, and the terror of having a microphone in front of you, and all of those faces staring at you.

So if I said I wish I had something meaningful to say, that was my inside voice coming out.  I wasn’t even aware that I actually said that out loud. I didn’t thank my children, which is something that I’ll probably never ever live down. About three seconds after I made it backstage, my phone rang and my son said, “You didn’t even mention us!”  And my heart just sank. So, you know, that probably would have been the most meaningful thing I could have said and I failed.

Lonergan: My daughter who is 15 was extremely irritated that I mentioned her at all, so you can’t really win.

Casey, during your speech they took a shot of your brother, Ben, in the front and it looked like he was having tears. What was it was like accepting the award in front of him and a group of your loved ones?

Affleck: It was very moving, and I include Kenny in that group of loved ones. And, obviously, my brother, to have him there, yeah, it was a nice moment. I saw those tears and I thought maybe I’m just not making a good speech, and he was really disappointed.  But I think he was probably touched, and I think that we are—not to brag or anything, but I think we’re the only two brothers to win Academy Awards, ever. [NOTE: Filmmaking brothers Joel and Ethan Coen actually won Oscars for directing, producing and writing the adapted screenplay for the 2007 dram “No Country for Old Men.”]

Casey, from almost the first major showing of “Manchester by the Sea,” you were predicted to win this award, and I’m sure that that whole ride has been kind of crazy. But how has it changed your expectation for what you can do as an artist? How has it fed your future thoughts for where you’re going?

Affleck: It’s only just reinforced the idea that I had going into it which was if you want to have a good performance or do good work, really, then you’d better work with good directors and good material because, let’s face it, that’s really what a good performance is, 90 percent of it. And this man is the best.

We really enjoyed that brotherly moment between you and Ben, the great hug. What did he say to you before you took the stage or did he give you any advice before coming into this evening?

Affleck: No, he didn’t. He didn’t actually say anything. He just hugged me. A lot of people have been giving me some grief for not thanking him in the past, but in a friendly way. He may have said, “Have fun” or something. It was really insightful, it was. “Be yourself.”

You know, what is there really to say? I’ve learned a lot from him because he’s been through a lot in this business and ups and downs and been under‑appreciated. I don’t know, and then it’s been proven how great he is. It’s been an advantage to be able to watch someone you love and you know so well go try to navigate the very tricky, rocky, sometimes hateful waters of being famous. And so I have learned a lot from him. But in that moment, I don’t think he said anything at all.

Mahershala Ali backstage at the 2017 Academy Awards

February 27, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place on February, 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

MAHERSHALA ALI

Oscar win:

Best Supporting Actor

(“Moonlight”)

Here is what this Oscar winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.

Mahershala Ali at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles
Mahershala Ali at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mike Baker/©A.M.P.A.S.)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

You are one of the few Muslim actors to win an Oscar. This says a lot at this particular time in our history. Could you speak to that, please? 

Well, regardless of one’s theology or however you see life or relate to worshipping God, as an artist my job is the same, and it’s to tell the truth, and try to connect with these characters and these people as honestly and as deeply as possible. And so one’s spiritual practice, I don’t necessarily feel like it’s as relevant unless it gives you a way into having more empathy for these people that you have to advocate for. I’m proud to own that. I embrace that. But, again, I’m just an artist who feels blessed to have had the opportunities that I have had and try to do the most with every opportunity that’s come my way.

The material in “Moonlight” is so personal to Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins, who both wrote the script. How much pressure did you feel to get it right?

I think I always want to walk away from any project feeling like the writer, director was pleased with what I had to offer. And considering the personal nature of this project, I think that … there was a need that felt a little heightened to me to get it truthful where they could walk away and feel like I really contributed to their film and didn’t screw it up considering that, you know, I was playing someone who had an extraordinary impact on Tarell’s life, and I’m actually glad I didn’t know ‘til later more the details of that, of Blue or Juan’s contribution to Tarell’s life, but it did. It added a layer of pressure.

First off, what went through your head when you read the script to begin with because it was such a beautiful film?  And what can you say about the Best Picture announcement mistake and kind of what went through your head hearing “La La Land” and then hearing “Moonlight” won after all?

Well, I sincerely say that when I read the script … Look, I don’t get to read everything, because there’s things that I’m just not remotely right for. Ryan Gosling and I read different scripts. It’s just what it is, right? As far as the scripts that I’ve read in my 17 years of doing it professionally, “Moonlight” was the best thing that has ever come across my desk.

And that character for the time that he was on the page really spoke to my heart, and I felt like I could hear him, I could sort of envision his presence. I had a real sense of who that person was, enough to start the journey. And I really wanted to be a part of that project, and I’m just so fortunate that Idris [Elba] and David Oyelowo left me a job.  You know, very, very kind of them.

So yeah, and then the second part of your question, “La La Land” has done so well and it’s resonated with so many people, especially in this time when people need a sense of buoyancy in their life and need some hope and light. So that film has really impacted people … in a very different way than “Moonlight.” And so when their name was read, I wasn’t surprised.  And I am really happy for them. It’s a group of some extraordinary people in front of the camera and behind the camera. So I was really happy for them.

And then when I did see security or people coming out on stage and their moment was being disrupted in some way, I got really worried. And then when they said Jordan Horowitz said, “”Moonlight,’ you guys have won,” it just threw me a bit because it threw me more than a bit, but, I didn’t want to go up there and take anything from somebody, and it’s very hard to feel joy in a moment like that. So, but I feel very fortunate … for all of us to have walked away with the Best Picture award. It’s pretty remarkable.

You used to be on “House of Cards.” What you think your fictional former “House f Cards” boss, Frank Underwood, would have to say about your win tonight and about the way the whole thing ended this evening?

“Bah humbug.” No. Kevin [Spacey], he’s been really supportive.  I think it’s a film that he really loved, and he’s told me. “House of Cards” is the reason I’m here. I’ve been working to that point 12 years, very steady employment for the most part, and then was finally able to be on something that really resonated with people in a way that honestly was a real shift in the culture. “House of Cards” was the first binge‑watched show that was ever binge watched, and so to be a part of that and that being something that feels really authentic for our culture and a real option in how we view and absorb and embrace content, that was that show. And so that’s the reason I’ve been able to put certain things together and even have this moment because of the four years I spent on “House of Cards.”

You seem to have very eclectic taste when it comes to picking your roles. Are you working on a project that you could share with us?

Well, there’s a project called “Alita: Battle Angel: that Robert Rodriguez is directing and James Cameron did in Austin. And I’m really excited about that. I actually play two parts in that film. That was a blast, and I literally wrapped that maybe two weeks ago. But then after that, I’m going to start something in a couple of months, and just honestly excited to read scripts and to have meetings and hopefully work with some more extraordinarily talented people like Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, and this wonderful cast and crew of “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures.” So I just feel very, very blessed to have had this award season and this experience.

What would you like to tell your newborn daughter right now in this world, that fatherly advice?

Just pray to be guided to your excellence. That’s it.

And winning an Oscar, that’s a journey that many actors want to be on, and it is a dream, and when they reach that dream, what’s next? So what is next for you?  And also, who are some of your role models that you have idolized?

So as far as what’s next, I think I’m going to try this way. I’m going to just look for material that I am inspired by and that I respond to and just try to do my best work, you know, and keep it about the work, working with great directors and writers and other extraordinary talented actors, because you want to be around people who are better than you and who can lift you up where you have raise your game. And I want to be inspired and just improve and do work that makes me uncomfortable, that scares me because anytime you get into the unknown, you get into that fearful space, that’s when you’re in new territory and you have the greatest opportunity to grow and improve as a talent or as an actor, an artist, and as a human being.

It’s very difficult to separate them for me, you know? So that’s how I would like to approach moving forward. And I think you asked me about who inspired me? Well, look, you know, we could talk about it till I’m some version of blue in the face, but the diversity topic, it’s very real in that when I was growing up—I’m 43 years old; I was born in 1974—and there weren’t a lot of [African-American] people on TV and films. When Billy Dee Williams was in “Star Wars,” like that was a big deal in my house and in my family, and it was somebody who was in the story that I could kind of attach to and say, Oh, wow, we’re present as well.

But for me, that person has always been Denzel Washington because, one, he’s just so damn talented. But, then, two, to see someone who comes from your tribe, so to speak, play at the level of all the other great ones and do it so well and be able to articulate his voice and his talent in a way that was on par with the very best, and he looks like you, too. You know what I mean, in that like, “Wow, there’s somebody who could be an uncle of mine.” Like, those are things that play in your mind as you move forward.

And also what I love about Denzel is not that he’s a great black actor, he’s a great actor. I’ve never looked at myself as a black actor. I’m an actor who happens to be African American, but I just want an opportunity to respond to material and bring whatever I bring to it in some unique fashion, and that’s it. But basically short story long, Denzel.

Viola Davis backstage at the 2017 Academy Awards

February 27, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place on February, 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

VIOLA DAVIS

Oscar win:

Best Supporting Actress

(“Fences”)

Here is what this Oscar winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.

Viola Davis at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles.
Viola Davis at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Mike Baker/©A.M.P.A.S.)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

You talked about how much your parents have supported you. Is there anything that they said to you when you were growing up that you kept with you and that you pass onto others?

That they loved me.  And my mom always said, “I knew the difference between an accountant and an actor,” but she was always okay with it. You know, someone told me years ago, they said, “You have the best parents.”  I said, “I do?” And they said, “Yeah, because they’re okay with just letting you fly. They’re not stage parents.” And I think that’s the biggest gift my parents gave to me is to kind of allow me to live my own life.  They weren’t living their dreams through me.

How did playing your “Fences” character Rose challenge you?

Everything about Rose challenged me. Rose just kind of seemingly just being sometimes at peace with being in the background was hard to play. Rose getting to a place of forgiveness was hard to play. That last scene when I did 114 performances on stage, I didn’t understand the last speech when she said, “I gave up my life to make him bigger.”  I didn’t get that.

But what Rose has taught me is a lot of what my mom has taught me: That my mom has lived a really hard life, but she still has an abundance of love. That’s the thing about life.  You go through it, and terrible things happen to you, beautiful things happen to you, and then you try to just stand up every day, but that’s not the point. The point is feeling all those things but still connecting to people, still being able to love people. And that was the best thing about playing Rose because I’m not there yet. Even at 51, sometimes I just kind of live in my anger.

What would your TV alter ego Annalise Keating from “How to Get Away With Murder” say about your Oscar win?

Oh, she would most definitely say, “I deserve this.” And then she would have some vodka. And in that, we are very similar.

Viola, what are you feeling right now?  What is going through your head right now?  What is your experience?

It’s easier to ask the alter ego.  I feel good. You know, it’s not my style to just kind of wake up and go, “Oh, I’m an Oscar winner. Oh, my gosh, let me go for a run.” You know. I’m good with it. I’ll have some mac and cheese, and I’ll go back to washing my daughter’s hair tomorrow night. But this is the first time in my life that I’ve stepped back—and I’m going to try not to cry now. All of a sudden. Be cheesy. And I can’t believe my life.

My sister is here somewhere, and I grew up in poverty. I grew up in apartments that were condemned and rat‑infested, and I just always sort of wanted to be somebody. And I just wanted to be good at something. And so this is sort of like the miracle of God, of dreaming big and just hoping that it sticks and it lands, and it did. Who knew? So I’m overwhelmed. Yeah.

What moment was it during those “Fences” performances on stage when you started back in 2010 that you and Denzel said, “Maybe we should make a film out of this. Maybe we could do that.”?

There was no moment, one moment on the stage. It’s the whole, every moment on the stage. The thing that I love about August Wilson is that he let’s people of color speak, and a lot of times I’m offered narratives where people will say a whole lot of things are happening in this scene, but it’s just not on the page.

There’s no words. There’s no journey. There’s no full realization of who we are. There’s no boldness. There’s no taking risks for being anything different.  I love every moment of this film is about the beauty of just living and breathing and being human. And not didactic, not being a walking social message. They do that with us a lot, as people of color.

Audiences love us when we represent something. I just want to represent me, living, breathing, failing, getting up in the morning, dying, forgiveness. August was the inspiration. You know, and Denzel decided he was going to do the movie from the moment he was given the script. He just said, “Let me do the play first.” So that’s it.

What do you love about being a black woman?

Everything. I love my history. I love the fact I can go back and look at so many different stories of women that have gone before me who seemingly should not have survived, and they did. And I love my skin. I love my voice. I love my history. Sometimes I don’t love being the spokesperson all the time, but so be it. That’s the way that goes, right?  But at 51, I’m sort of loving me.

What makes a great story?

What makes a great story?  What makes a great story most definitely is fully realized characters, great writing, definitely, where a character is introduced to you from the very beginning and they go on a journey that’s unexpected, and then they arrive someplace completely different from where they started. What makes a great story is the element of surprise. And what makes a great story absolutely is if it has a central event that helps people connect to a part of themselves.

And in that, “Fences” had it all. Because that’s what it’s about, right? You want to connect. I mean, sometimes you want to eat the buttered popcorn and the Milk Duds and the Sour Patch Kids. I do that a lot too, and Diet Coke. But more often, you want to be shifted in some way in your thinking in your feeling about who you are in the world,.  That would be a great story.

Emma Stone backstage at the 2017 Academy Awards

February 27, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 89th Annual Academy Awards took place on February 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

EMMA STONE

Oscar win:

Best Actress

(“La La Land”)

Here is what this Oscar winner said backstage in the Academy Awards press room.

Emma Emma Stone at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles
Emma Stone at the 2017 Academy Awards in Los Angeles. (Photo by Tyler Golden/ABC)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

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.

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