Steven Yeun, Riz Ahmed, and Viola Davis all make history with Oscar nominations

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Sam Barsanti
·2 min read
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Steven Yeun (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images), Riz Ahmed (Andrew Toth/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter), Viola Davis (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for GBK Productions)
Steven Yeun (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images), Riz Ahmed (Andrew Toth/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter), Viola Davis (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for GBK Productions)

The announcement of the 2021 Academy Awards nominations this morning wasn’t without its share of surprises and disappointing snubs, but there are still some exciting firsts worth making special note of (though, as is often the case with awards show firsts, the “why did this take so long?” sense is predictably hard to shake). For starters, Steven Yeun is now the first Asian-American person to ever receive a Best Actor nomination (for his work in Minari), while Riz Ahmed is the first Muslim person to ever receive a Best Actor nomination (for Sound Of Metal), making this the first time two actors of Asian descent have ever both been up for that category at the same time. Yeun’s Minari co-star, Yuh-jung Youn, is also the first South Korean person to be nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Ahmed, in a statement to Deadline, offered a humble take on his nomination:

Whether they see me as the first British Pakistani, or the first guy from Wembley, you know, there’s so many ways to view it. But as long as it feels like an opportunity for more people than ever before to really connect and feel included in this moment, that’s a blessing.

Elsewhere, Viola Davis picking up a Best Actress nomination for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom makes her the first Black woman to ever get more than one Best Actress nomination, with her first coming from The Help in 2011. She is also now the most-nominated Black actress in the history of the Academy Awards, having been nominated four times (Doubt, The Help, and Fences being the other three).

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This year is also the first time in the nearly century-long history of the Academy Awards that more than one woman was nominated for Best Director, with Nomadland’s Chloé Zhao and Promising Young Woman’s Emerald Fennell both getting nods. Zhao is also the first woman of color to ever be nominated in that category and the first woman in Oscars history to get four nominations in a single year (she’s up for writing, producing, and editing as well).

We’ll see how these nominations shake out when the 93rd Academy Awards air on ABC on Sunday, April 25 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.