Jessica Chastain Talks Industry Diversity, Stunned by Racial Remarks

Kimberly RipleyLife

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Jessica Chastain used her moment to shine at the 2015 Critics' Choice Awards to turn attention toward creating more diversity within the film industry. She accepted the inaugural Most Valuable Player honor, and after thanking those near and dear to her, noted that it was in fact what would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 86th birthday.

"Today is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, so it got me thinking about our need to build the strength of diversity in our industry, and to stand together against homophobic, sexist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and racist agendas," she said. "I'm an optimist and I can't help but feel hopeful about the future of film, especially looking at all of the beautiful people in this room."

"Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,'" she continued.

Jessica Chastain concluded her talk as simply and directly as it began.

"And I would like to encourage everyone in this room to please speak up. Thank you."

Chastain's remarks were well received by many, however she has since admitted that she was stunned by some of the reactions to her speech. The Help and Zero Dark Thirty actor even called the criticism "strange."

"I've had really terrible people who are racists comment on the speech and say really terrible things. I'm understanding that some people in this world, how much hate they can have," she said during an interview with CBS News.

On the morning of the day Jessica Chastain accepted her Critics Choice Award, the Oscar nominations were announced in Hollywood. The Academy has since received much criticism for the absence of both black actors and directors in their list of nominees.

Jessica Chastain admitted that in being part of the film industry, she is also a "part of the problem." She plans to speak out about it again, and clearly won't let some of the racial remarks that have stunned her so get in her way. She insists that "we all need to work together to fix it."

Do you think Chastain was further incited to speak out about the need for diversity within the film industry because of that morning's Oscar nominations?

Kudos to Jessica Chastain for her speech, the incredibly appropriate timing of it--and most of all--for her refusal to back down, even in light of cricticism.

Kimberly Ripley
Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.