While many boycotted the Oscars this year in response to the very white slate of nominees, those at the ceremony were asked to articulate why they decided to attend. On the red carpet, Kerry Washington, a new inductee to the Academy, emphasized the importance of working within a system to create change. “If you look at the history of movements, the history of change, a lot of voices are needed at the table,” Washington said. “I really respect and, actually, admire some of the people who are not here tonight, I really get it. But for me I felt like my voice, and my heart — my voice is best used at the table.”
“I really want to be part of the conversation to make sure there’s institutional change,” Washington said, “so that we never have a year like this again, so that we can be as inclusive as possible.”
Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs focused on the changes the organization has made in the midst of criticism and echoed many of Washington’s sentiments. “I am here to say we are going to continue to take action and not just speak,” Isaacs said. “Our members are like ambassadors into the entire motion picture industry, [making] sure that the conversation of inclusion continues, and more than the conversation, that action is taken, and that it’s all of our responsibility to make sure that diversity does happen.”
Common told ABC’s Robin Roberts that participants have to act as role models. “I want to be able to be a voice for some of the black, brown people, women, the people who usually get overlooked. It’s a Hollywood issue,” he said. “And it’s an American issue.” Mark Ruffalo, who previously said he considered boycotting the Oscars (and joined a protest to support survivors of sexual abuse before attending the ceremony), reiterated to Roberts the importance of standing up for those who are often left out of the discussion. "Who better to support these people," he said, "than their fellow liberals?"