Film Independent Spirit Awards: ‘American Fiction,’ Jeffrey Wright, Da’Vine Joy Randolph win big

The actors took to the stage at the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday night.

The Film Independent Spirit Awards were held on Sunday evening, celebrating the work of those in independent film and television over the last year.

Hosted by “Saturday Night Live” alum Aidy Bryant, the ceremony introduced genderless groupings, with as many as 10 nominations per performance category. Earning the trophy for best lead performance was Jeffrey Wright, who has garnered major nominations all awards season for his work in “American Fiction.”

Actor Jeffrey Wright, who stars in “American Fiction,” won the Film Independent Spirit Award for best lead performance at Sunday’s ceremony in Santa Monica, California. (Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images)

“It’s funny, you go to these award shows, you kind of grow tired of them,” Wright quipped at the top of his speech, “and then you get one; it kind of changes the vibe a little bit.” He then took the time to recall meeting Muhammad Ali the first time he ever attended the Spirit Awards, saying his win on Sunday “adds to wonderful memories” of the event.

Wright also gave a shout-out to the early supporters of “American Fiction,” his co-workers and his family — specifically his son, Elijah.

“My son is here; Elijah, I love you,” he said. “You and your sister and my family are the sun around which I orbit. I am nowhere without you.”

The veteran actor concluded by thanking screenwriter Cord Jefferson and author Percival Everett, who wrote the book on which “American Fiction” is based, “Erasure.”

Jefferson also took home an award Sunday, winning for best screenplay. He spoke to how “vulnerable” it was for him to write the film.

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“I basically put so much of my life in this movie,” Jefferson said. “It was a really vulnerable experience, and it’s probably the most vulnerable thing that I’ve ever done. The fact that it’s been received the way that it has by so many people whose work and lives I admire and respect so much, it has truly meant the world to me.”

Among other winners, Da’Vine Joy Randolph was honored for best supporting performance for her work in “The Holdovers,” just 24 hours after her SAG Awards win for the same role. A.V. Rockwell won the best first feature award for “A Thousand and One,” a 2023 favorite of the Sundance Film Festival that theGrio covered last year.

The award for best breakthrough performance in a new scripted series went to 11-year-old actor Keivonn Montreal Woodard for his work in “The Last of Us.” Keivonn, who is deaf, plays Sam in the series, a deaf survivor of a zombie apocalypse. He made history with his Emmy nomination last year when he was 10, becoming the youngest actor to earn a nomination for guest actor in a drama series.

The full list of Film Independent Spirit Awards winners can be found here.

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