LOS ANGELES (AP) - “Hidden Figures” and Taraji P. Henson had a big night at the NAACP Image Awards, where Hollywood glamour shared the stage with somber remarks from the director of Washington’s new African-American museum.
“Hidden Figures,” the fact-based drama about the contributions of black female mathematicians to the U.S. space program, won the award for best movie Saturday, while star Henson was honored as best actress.
“There are roles you accept that scare you. And this one did, because I failed math,” said Henson, recalling that she grew up in a time when math and science were supposed to be “just for boys.”
“I made it my mission to do this film. This film was very important. It was bigger than me. … People are seeing it because it’s important,” she said.
Henson also won the trophy for TV drama series actress for her role as matriarch Cookie in “Empire.”
Denzel Washington added to his awards haul for “Fences,” winning the trophy for best movie actor. Washington, who directed the adaptation of August Wilson’s play, won a Screen Actors Guild award for his performance and is vying for an Oscar Feb. 26.
“It is a privilege, an honor, a responsibility, a duty and a joy to bring his brilliance to the screen,” Washington said of the late Wilson, whom he called among America’s greatest playwrights.
The TV sitcom “black-ish” came close to sweeping its categories, taking the award for best TV comedy and with stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross getting top acting trophies. In non-televised awards given Friday, the show earned honors for co-stars Laurence Fishburne and Marsai Martin and a writing trophy for creator Kenya Barris.
A directing award to Donald Glover for his comedy series “Atlanta” prevented a “black-ish” monopoly at the 48th Image Awards, which are presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to honor people of color in entertainment.
“Queen Sugar,” created by filmmaker Ava DuVernay, was named best drama series, and “This Is Us” star Sterling K. Brown claimed the award for best TV drama series actor.
Lonnie G. Bunche III received the NAACP President’s Award for his work as founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
“This is a big deal for a historian from New Jersey,” Bunche said. “With this award, you recognize more than me. You recognize the power of history.”
He said he was accepting the award on behalf of many others, including enslaved women who retained their humanity and “all the black men whose lives and hopes were shattered by the criminal justice system or destroyed by the racial violence, like that of Emmett Till,” a teenage lynching victim in 1950s Mississippi.
Dwyane Johnson was named entertainer of the year in online voting, beating out contenders including Beyonce. But the pop star, a front-runner at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, wasn’t slighted: She won five Image Awards, including top female artist and album (“Lemonade”), at Friday’s event.
Anderson, host of the ceremony televised by TV One, paid tribute to former President Barack Obama during his opening remarks, saying appreciation of his “greatness” will only grow and that future generations may include him on Mount Rushmore.
Then Anderson ribbed Obama’s successor.
“I want to thank Donald Trump for expanding my vocabulary. I don’t do things ‘big’ anymore, I do things ‘bigly,’” Anderson said. “I don’t lie to folks anymore. I’m merely providing alternative facts.”
On a more acid note, Anderson said that while “those who want to return to the past now have the reins of power in their hands …. we must always have the audacity of hope.”
Anderson circled back during the show to acknowledge an apparent flub in an opening joke, one in which he teased whites for conflating the titles of “Hidden Figures” and “Fences.” But Anderson did just that in lauding the performances in what he called “Hidden Fences” - the error Michael Keaton made at the Golden Globes and later apologized for.
But Anderson’s gag was scripted and not a mistake, a spokeswoman for the ceremony’s producers said.
While the recent SAG and Golden Globes ceremonies were far heavier on political references from winners, “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah used his appearance as a presenter to get a jab in.
After complimenting the Pasadena, California, auditorium audience as “black and beautiful,” he added: “The room is so black it looks like a photo negative of the Trump administration.”
Lynn Elber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lynnelber.
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