Know Your 2017 Oscar Nominees: Actress in a Supporting Role

Our Oscars coverage this year has gone big. Our annual "Know Your Nominee" series will once again touch upon every category, giving you the information you need to conquer your Oscars pool. Learn more about the nominees for Lead ActorForeign Language FilmCostume DesignersDocumentary ShortEditing, and Live Action Short, and check back with us as we go deep on all the rest. In addition to the series, this year we've created a special look at the awards—The Road to the Oscars. Click on the image below to learn more about this year's crop of Oscar nominated films and filmmakers, and the effect their contributions have had on the country at large.

Today we look at the Actress in a Supporting Role category, which is always a favorite, but this year takes on a special resonance. After a bruising presidential campaign in which Hillary Clinton came achingly close to becoming our first female president, to the Women’s March that spread across the nation, and globe, on January 21st, these nominated performances speak to a growing demand for a more representative take on the breadth of experiences for women on the big screen. 

Viola Davis — Fences

If you’re in an Oscars pool, there’s probably not a better bet than Davis. She once again delivered an astonishing performance as Rose in Denzel Washington’s Fences, giving voice to the wife of the loquacious, tempestuous Troy Maxon (Washington). Rose is mostly sidelined in the first half of the film as Troy sucks up all the oxygen in any environment he’s in, but once she begins to fight for her own central role in the story of their family and life, Davis reminds viewers why she’s becoming a perennial Oscar nominee. 

Naomie Harris — Moonlight

The English actress Naomie Harris played Paula in Barry Jekins’ momentous Moonlight, the crack-addicted mother of the film’s central character, Chiron. She spends the first two thirds of the film destroying herself and, simultaneously, the tender ego of her searching son. The performance is stunning, bookended by a third act in which Paula has made gains healing herself, but finds that the boy she didn’t protect has grown into a man who has nearly cut himself off from his own feelings. 

Nicole Kidman — Lion

Kidman’s tender performance as Sue Brierley (based on a real woman) gives Lion a crucial counterpoint—she’s a wonderful mother, which makes it all the more painful when her adopted son, Saroo (played by Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel) becomes obsessed with tracking down the family he was estranged from in India. Kidman’s performance is subtly potent and complex. She’s not just the do-gooder Australian adopting Indian children out of pure kindness; her complex reasons for adopting makes her decision all the more remarkable. ​

Octavia Spencer — Hidden Figures

Spencer shared screen time with two other wonderful actresses in Hidden Figures—Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe—the three of them the real-life women who helped NASA get John Glenn into space. Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn, the lead of a group of a data analysts (all African American), and she invests the character with the toughness, and dismay, that resonates in a film filled with strong performances. 

Michelle Williams — Manchester by the Sea

Williams doesn’t have a ton of screen time in Manchester by the Sea, but by god does she make the most of it. In a single, scorching scene, Williams’ gives the film’s best performance. Playing Randi, the ex-wife of Casey Affleck’s Lee Chandler, Williams exposes the raw pain and heartbreak of a woman trying desperately to get on with her life in the aftermath of tragedy while extending an olive branch to the author of her pain. It’s a breathtaking moment.

Featured image: Clockwise, L-r: Nicole Kidman, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Naomie Harris and Michelle Williams. Courtesy Weinstein, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, A24 & Amazon.


Bryan Abrams

Bryan Abrams is the Editor-in-chief of The Credits. He's run the site since its launch in 2012. He lives in New York.