Aunjanue Ellis reflects on Oscars nomination at AAFCA Awards: ‘I didn’t see it coming’

EXCLUSIVE: "I didn't realize it until I got the nomination and so many people were texting me and they were saying, 'This feels like us,'" Ellis says

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Black excellence shined bright at the 13th annual African American Film Critics Awards on Wednesday where some of Hollywood’s biggest talent took home prizes.

Aunjanue Ellis was one of the show’s top honorees, winning the award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in King Richard. Ellis’ AAFCA win comes just a few weeks after she was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Oracene Price in the Williams family film.

TheGrio‘s Mariel Turner had to chance to catch up with Ellis, 53, on the AAFCA red carpet where she dished on her role and her surprise reaction to her Oscar nomination.

Aunjanue Ellis attends the 13th Annual African American Film Critics (AAFCA) Film Honors at SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Beverly Hills, on March 02, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)

“I didn’t see it coming. I knew that a lot of people wanted it for me, my family and my agent, to be honest,” she said with a laugh. “So for that reason, I’m just really happy that it happened.”

Ellis went on to reflect on her journey to the Oscars, sharing that it feels “good” to be receiving her flowers after years of standout performances. The actress received critical acclaim for her roles in projects like When They See Us, Lovecraft Country, and The Help, but Oscar recognition proved difficult until her performance in King Richard.

“I didn’t realize it until I got the nomination and so many people were texting me and they were saying, ‘This feels like us,’ you know,” Ellis shared. “Because they’ve been watching me and doing it with me for so long. So, yeah, I feel it’s like the affirmation of not just me, but so many people.”

Ellis’ AAFCA win was among several honors for King Richard, with the 2021 biopic taking home AAFCA awards for Best Actor (Will Smith), Breakout Actor (Saniyya Sidney) and Emerging Director (Reinaldo Marcus Green).

The AAFCA Awards also featured a host of presenters, including Meagan Good, Jay Ellis and Sherri Shepherd. Jay Ellis, who recently wrapped up Insecure‘s final season, reflected on the importance of Black excellence on the red carpet.

Jay Ellis attends the 13th Annual African American Film Critics (AAFCA) Film Honors at SLS Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in Beverly Hills, on March 02, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/WireImage)

“[It means] everything. From our flaws to our perfections, it is us coming together, I think, as a community and being our authentic 100% selves for who we are—the ups, the downs, all of it.”

He continued, “And never wavering from that, never being afraid of it, never backing away from it. And, you know, doing what we do—rising, creating, driving culture, storytelling, all of the above.”

Shepherd also offered her thoughts, saying that Black excellence means “walking in your truth.” The comedian, who was recently announced as the host of her own talk show, Sherri, added that “[It] means [being] unapologetically Black. It’s so beautiful.”

“I am just looking at other Black folk…and it’s just like you’re proud. Just being proud of who you are, and knowing that we’ve worked so hard to be here and people are acknowledging it. Our folks are acknowledging it.”

Fans can find the full winners list for the African American Film Critics Association Awards here.

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