Viola Davis, nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar for...

Viola Davis, nominated for the best supporting actress Oscar for "Fences," seems to be the likeliest one to leave with a statuette. Credit: Paramount Pictures / David Lee

The nominees in the supporting actress category are responsible for much of the diversity at this year’s Oscars. Some will say it still isn’t enough overall, but this particular contest features three women of color. Here’s who’s in the running:

Nicole Kidman, “Lion”

She plays the eccentric adoptive mother of a young man (Dev Patel) who was separated from his biological family as a little boy. Hers is almost a one-scene role, but what a scene: an emotional, near-mystical moment of motherly love.


Naomie Harris, “Moonlight”

Isn’t she Ms. Moneypenny, from the new James Bond flicks? She is, but she’s almost unrecognizable as the crack-addicted mother of a gay son. Harris’ nomination is one of eight for “Moonlight.”


Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Like Kidman in “Lion,” Williams plays a mother, and she’s barely in the movie at all. Her most memorable scene, however, opposite Casey Affleck, may be the linchpin of the whole film.


Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures”

She plays Dorothy Vaughn, a self-taught computer programmer working at NASA during the 1960s. As she did in “The Help,” Spencer strikes a perfect balance between pathos and comic relief.


Viola Davis, “Fences”

As the long-suffering wife of an embittered garbage collector (Denzel Washington), Davis seems more like this film’s co-lead than a supporting player. It’s a strong performance that seems sure to earn Davis the statue here.

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