Mister Tee wrote:For the record, I think she's legitimately placed in support -- possibly because my first exposure to the role was via the un-famous Mary Alice on stage -- but the role is meaty enough it wouldn't be ridiculous as lead, either.
Just to chime in on this topic, for as much as we all debate whether roles are lead or support, I wonder if there might be some parts where you genuinely could make a case that it could go either way. And I'd probably argue that Davis in Fences is one of those. Obviously, it's a sizable role, with a few very dominant scenes, and I certainly don't object to anyone arguing that she's the movie's female lead.
But if I'm asking myself, would anyone think this role was supporting if it hadn't been campaigned that way...I still think the answer would be yes, some people would. (Whereas, say, Rooney Mara in Carol -- absolutely not.) Davis is pretty clearly not Washington's equal -- he has notably more scenes without her, and even a good number of scenes that she's in she's basically puttering in the background while Washington spouts monologues. And I don't view Fences as primarily the story of the Troy-Rose relationship -- I'd say it's Troy's story, and his relationship with Rose is just one of several significant threads in the film/play. Using the Mister Tee rubric, if she'd been placed in Best Actress, would I vote for her to win? My answer would be no, because her part just isn't as central as Portman or Huppert's.
All of this is to say, I totally hear the argument that an actress of Davis's stature, in a part that clearly dwarfs some of her competitors in screen time (especially Harris and Williams), would merit a lead placement. But I also think some of the "100% lead" folks are overlooking the fact that she is absent from decent portions of the movie, and whether or not this meets one's definition of support might vary depending on the person.
Also, for comparison's sake, isn't Davis's function in Fences somewhat similar to that of Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea? Despite major screen time, I haven't heard one person argue that he's committing fraud -- everyone seems to agree that his role is clearly secondary to the central lead.