Academy Awards: From The Press Room – Backstage Reactions from Emma Stone, Casey Affleck, Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali

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Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Mahershala Ali and Casey Affleck, each captured the hearts, minds, and conscience of Academy voters, who awarded each with the Oscar for the respective soul stirring, hopeful, and challenging performances.

Each have enjoyed a magical awards seasons beginning with the Golden Globes which Ms. Stone, Ms. Davis, Mr. Affleck each received. Mr. Ali was also nominated.

The SAG Awards also went to Ms. Stone, Ms. Davis, and Mr. Ali, with Denzel Washington capturing the lead actor,

The BAFTA went to Ms. Stone, Ms. Davis, and Mr. Affleck. Dev Patal, nominated for his role in Lion took home the BAFTA.

Emma Stone, as Mia, the dedicated and hopeful believer in the film La La Land; Viola Davis, the long-suffering wife, Rose, opposite Denzel Washington, Troy, in Fences; Mahershala Ali, the drug dealer who becomes a surrogate father in Moonlight, and Casey Affleck, the grief-stricken walking dead father, in Manchester by the Sea each took a few minutes to speak with media backstage.

Below are excerpts from each of the responses. Media representatives are not identified as the Academy press are given numbers and recognized by the moderator by number.

Emma Stone – Lead Actress – La La Land

Q. I just wonder how will you celebrate tonight and who will you call first after the show?
A. 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.

Q. 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? 
A. Well, it's I guess surreal is probably the only way to describe it.  It was ‑‑ I mean, to play this ‑‑ 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. 

Q. How much does an Oscar cost in terms of sacrifice and discipline? 
A. Oh, my God.  Is that measurable?  I don't ‑‑ I don't know.  I guess it depends on the Oscar.  For ‑‑ 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 ‑‑ like a sacrifice to me.  It's the great joy of my life. 

Viola Davis – Supporting Actress – Fences

Q. How did playing Rose challenge you?
A. 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.  I never hit it when I ‑‑ that last scene when I did 114 performances on stage, I didn't understand the last speech when she said, you know, "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.  And that's the thing, you know.  That's the thing about life.  You go through it, and you ‑‑ just 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.

Q. I've heard about you.  I've heard about August Wilson.  I've heard about your parents.  I want to know what Viola Davis ‑‑ not the black woman, not the woman ‑‑ but Viola, what are you feeling right now?  What is going through your head right now?  What is your experience?
A. 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 mean, my sister is here somewhere, and I grew up in poverty.  You know, 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. 

Q. You said you wanted to be good at something.  You're absolutely fantastic at it.  You completely tore me apart with your performance, and I absolutely love the film.  What I want to know is what moment was it during those 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."
A. 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.   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.

Oscar Night Shocker: Envelope Error Moonlight Wins Best Picture Stunning La La Land Filmmakers Already on Stage (Video)

Mahershala Ali – Supporting Actor - Moonlight

A. Good evening.  How you doing?

Q. The material is so personal to Tarell and Barry.  How much pressure did you feel to get it right?
A. 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 heightened sense of ‑‑ there was a need that felt a little heightened to me to ‑‑ to get it truthful where they could walk away and feel ‑‑ feel like I really contributed to their film and didn't screw it up considering that, you know, I was playing someone who had a ‑‑ who played a ‑‑ who had an extraordinary impact on Tarell's life, and I'm actually glad I didn't know till 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.

Q. So then, therefore, what is next for you?  And also, who are some of your role models that you have idolized and you have patterned yourself after?
A. Okay.  You don't play.  You ask those heavy three‑part questions.  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 know, 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. 

So I don't really ‑‑ 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 people on TV, you know, and there weren't a lot of films. 

 It was a big deal when ‑‑ 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 have ‑‑ 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 ‑‑ that play in your mind as you ‑‑ as you move forward, you know.  And also what I love about Denzel is not that he's a great black actor, he's a great actor.  And I've never ‑‑ 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 ‑‑ whatever I bring to it in some unique fashion, and that's it.  But basically short story long, Denzel.

Casey Affleck – Lead Actor  - Manchester by the Sea

Q. Casey, during your speech they took a shot of your brother, Ben, in the front and it looked like he was having tears in his eyes and started to tear up so I was wondering what it was like accepting the award in front of him and sort of a group of your loved ones, just the group right there?
A. (Casey 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 wasn't sure if he was just ‑‑ 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 ‑‑ I mean, not to brag or anything, but I think we're the only two brothers to win Academy Awards, ever. 

Q. Casey, from almost the first major showing of this film, 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 could do as an artist?  How has it fed your future thoughts for where you're going?
A. (Casey 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. 

Q. Congratulations.  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?
A. 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 think that he has given me ‑‑ 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 and, I don't know, and then it's been proven how great he is.  So I definitely have had ‑‑ 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.

Transcripts courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Image courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

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