Straight Outta Compton’s Neil Brown Jr. on the Oscars: ‘Nominations Don’t Exactly Reflect How Vast, Eclectic and Diverse Our Art Is’

Straight Outta Compton’s Neil Brown Jr. is joining the conversation on diversity at the Oscars, and offering a unique perspective on the brewing controversy.

Brown Jr., who’s performance in the film earned him a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast, tells PEOPLE, “I am beyond humbled and honored at the support, and acknowledgement of the fans, critics and so many award shows who recognize the hard work that went into making our film, Straight Outta Compton.”

The actor, who plays DJ Yella in the N.W.A. biopic, adds that the accolades are “all icing on an extremely decadent cake at this point.”

But as rewarding as the recognition has been for Brown Jr. and the cast, he says, “I also share the sentiment of my peers that sometimes nominations don’t exactly reflect how vast, eclectic and diverse our art is.”

While the largely unknown cast of Compton earned rave reviews from critics, the newcomers were snubbed from the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. In another year in which no black actors received nominations, the only Oscar recognition the movie received came in the form of a best screenplay nomination for the film’s group of all white writers.

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The lack of nominations for black actors for the second year in a row has sparked criticism and boycotts from many prominent stars, including Jada Pinkett Smith, Spike Lee and Mark Ruffalo. And while Brown Jr. shares their sentiment, he also sees a silver lining to the conversation.

“America is one of the most beautiful countries in the world because of our diversity and I’m honestly optimistic that this conversation we are having, which we may not have had otherwise, will be a step in the right direction for getting all of us to think outside the box, push the envelope and edge outside of our comfort zone, which in this industry we are strong enough and have a duty to do.”

On Friday, the Academy issued a statement promising to double the number of women and minority members by 2020. Directors Guild of America president Paris Barclay applauded the effort on Monday, while cautioning that the Oscars are “a symptom of this industry plague, but not the root cause.”

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