Halle Berry says she's 'heartbroken' no other Black woman has won Oscar for best actress

Watch 'Screen Queens Rising' Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT | 7 p.m. CT on ABC

ByAdia Robinson ABCNews logo
Thursday, February 3, 2022
Halle Berry on being only Black woman to win best actress Oscar
Halle Berry became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for best actress in 2002 and remains the only Black woman to have won the award.

Halle Berry became the first woman of color to win the Academy Award for best actress in 2002, but 20 years later, she remains the only Black woman to have won the award.

"I do feel completely heartbroken that there's no other woman standing next to me in 20 years," Berry said.

"I thought, like everybody else, that night meant a lot of things would change," she added. "That there would be other women. I thought I would have the script truck back up to my front door and I'd have an opportunity to play any role I wanted. That didn't happen. No other woman is standing there."

Berry spoke to T.J. Holmes, co-anchor of "GMA3: What You Need to Know," for the special "Screen Queens Rising," airing Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. on ABC and Hulu. Part of the "Soul of a Nation" series, the special explores how Black actresses went from being overlooked to some of the most powerful women in Hollywood and features interviews with Berry, Debbie Allen, Jackée Harry and more.

Over her career, Berry has played several iconic roles, including advertising executive Angela Lewis in "Boomerang," a Bond girl in "Die Another Day," and Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black woman to be nominated for the best actress Oscar, in a biographical TV movie.

She won the Academy Award for best actress playing Leticia Musgrove, a widowed waitress, in the 2001 film "Monster's Ball."

Despite being disappointed that no other Black woman has won the Academy's top award for actresses, Berry said that awards are no longer how she measures success.

"When I look around and I see my brothers and sisters working and thriving and telling their own stories from their point of view, I'm proud of that," she said. "And I see the movement forward. And I think that night inspired so many of those people to dream those dreams."

In an interview with ABC News' Deborah Roberts for "Screen Queens Rising," Tessa Thompson touched on being part of that generation of Black creators in Hollywood, saying she felt "linked" to actresses like Berry.

"I look at so many of my contemporaries that have a tremendous amount of power and ownership, that are creating new narratives, that have their companies, that are making opportunities, that are doing it their way," said Thompson, who has starred in "Creed" and "Thor: Ragnarok."

However, Berry said that she was shocked when neither Viola Davis nor Andra Day won the award for best actress at the 2021 Oscars. Davis was nominated for her role in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and Day was nominated for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in a biographical drama.

Not winning the award "doesn't take anything away from those performances or who they are as artists," Berry said. "I think we have to start to change our perspective because it's clear that we may not change how the awards are handed out."

"But in lieu of changing that, what can we change? We can change our participation within the industry," she added. "We can change how hard we fight to tell our stories, the scripts we write."

"Girls Trip" star Regina Hall echoed that sentiment in a separate interview with ABC News.

"Awards are nice and it's great," she said. "But the value that you place on it is where your peace will reside."

Reflecting on her own challenges in the entertainment industry, Berry said that she had to fight to both get into the industry and to stay in it.

"The fight has been consistent, it just changes its face, you know? But the fight is as hard as it was to get in the industry," she said. "And now to stay in the industry for 30 years and find a way to stay relevant and still do things that I love is a constant fight."

Those challenges continued when it came to making her 2020 film "Bruised," where she starred as disgraced MMA fighter Jackie Justice. The movie was also her directorial debut.

"It was obstacle after obstacle," Berry said. "Every other day, I was threatened to be shut down."

"I think the reason it has happened to me a lot -- being Black and looking the way I look, I'm always marginalized. I'm always second-guessed," she added. "I always have to prove that I am more than the shell that I walk around in. And I believe on some level that's why."

Despite these challenges, Berry said that she still enjoys acting and she hopes that the next generation will have an easier time than she did.

"My hope is for the Tessa Thompsons and the Zendayas is that because I've lived through my journey and I've fought all the fights that I had to fight and continue to fight, that their fight will be indelibly easier," she said.

ABC News' Candace Smith-Chekwa, T.J. Holmes and Deborah Roberts contributed to this report.

Watch "Screen Queens Rising" Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT | 7 p.m. CT on ABC and stream on Hulu.