Women dominated in gender-neutral acting categories in the first year of their institution at the Independent Spirit Awards, claiming four statuettes at Saturday’s ceremony.
Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Michelle Yeoh nabbed Best Lead Performance, with her co-star Stephanie Hsu landing the new award of Best Breakthrough Performance. Abbott Elementary‘s Quinta Brunson landed Best Lead Performance in a New Scripted series, with The Bear‘s Ayo Edebiri landing Supporting Performance in a New Scripted Series.
The sole winner on the side of the men in acting categories was Everything Everywhere‘s Ke Huy Quan — an Oscar frontrunner, who here won Best Supporting Performance.
Film Independent first announced its intention to make its 2023 acting categories gender neutral, across film and television, in August of last year. The ceremony is the latest to go that route, following shows like the Gotham Awards and the Brit Awards.
A couple of of tonight’s winners did make mention of the awards show innovation — including Brunson who admitted, “I kind of like the gender neutral thing.” Edebiri jokingly exclaimed “Sorry!” after noting that she’d been up against male co-star Ebon Moss-Bacharach.
But if the move to gender neutral awards has been a bit of a lightning rod topic in pop culture overall, that was about the extent to which it came up at today’s ceremony.
Still, Deadline did catch up with a number of nominees ahead of the ceremony, who freely offered up their thoughts — generally in favor of the award show’s evolution. Elsa Ramos — who exec produced Best International Film winner Joyland — suggested the move is in keeping with the Spirit Awards’ place “on the forefront” of diversity and inclusion.
“[The move to gender-neutral categories] feels like an opening and a way just for more voices to have an opportunity,” said Ramo. “Joyland, for us, feels like a part of that story, and it’s been amazing to watch this movie resonate with so many people, and the Spirit Awards embracing that kind of awareness that there’s a much broader way of looking at humanity. It has been great to be a part of that journey, for sure.”
Added Ramo’s fellow Joyland EP Tiffany Boyle: “I think it’s important to kind of get behind that initiative. The fact that they’re doing it just speaks to they’re putting their money where their mouth is, effectively. So we’re really thrilled that they’re doing it.”
Actor Jeff Hiller — a first-time nominee for his work on HBO’s Somebody Somewhere — seemed more split on the move. He called the way of grouping nominees “great,” opining that “we shouldn’t define people by gender, which is a construct.”
He went on to express his concern that this way of divvying up awards might adversely impact “cisgender women…just because of the way that Hollywood is” — though that certainly didn’t end up being the case today.
Comedian Hasan Minhaj hosted today’s ceremony, which took place as usual in a tent set up adjacent to the Santa Monica pier. A24’s Everything Everywhere led with seven wins.