The “Harriet” actor said Phoenix was “brave” for making that speech on stage, adding in an interview with Variety published Thursday that his words “meant a lot” to her.
All of the nominees in the BAFTA acting categories were white. And in the U.S., Erivo is the only Black actor – or actor of color – who received a nomination for an Oscar in the acting categories, renewing criticism that those selected to vie for various Academy Awards often lack diversity.
“I think it was time for someone like (Phoenix) to say it, because people like me, the Black girls of the world, the Black men of the world, are saying it consistently, but we’re not always being heard,” Erivo told Variety. “So maybe it might have taken that to change something.”
Erivo also told the publication that Phoenix’s speech “meant that someone like him was listening and seeing what is going on and [it] has gotten to the point where he [can’t] pretend it’s not happening anymore.”
Erivo has spoken out against the lack of representation in the acting categories. Last month, she publicly declined an invitation to sing at the BAFTAs, saying the request was “calling on me as an entertainer as opposed to a person who is a part of the world of film.”
Erivo earned Oscar nods in the Best Actress and Original Song categories for “Harriet,” which tells the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Phoenix is nominated for Best Actor for “Joker.”
The Oscar show airs Sunday night on ABC. Erivo, a 33-year-old Tony, Grammy and Emmy winner, could become the youngest person to reach EGOT status ― earning an award at each of the major entertainment industry ceremonies ― if she garners an Oscar.