When the Oscar nominations were announced earlier this month, Hugh Jackman admits that the lack of diversity among acting nominees didn’t immediately stand out to him – and that was a bit of a wake-up call.
“It never flagged in my head that this was an issue, and that gave me pause later,” he tells PEOPLE. “So this is something that we need to talk about.”
For the second year in a row, non-white stars were completely shut out of all acting categories, a reality that has prompted a renewed discussion about diversity in entertainment and calls by some stars to skip the show.
Jackman, 47, pointed out that while he “actually vote[d] for some African Americans,” the diversity issue in Hollywood extends beyond race.
“Not just race – sex, sexuality, every front, films are there to tell the stories of our time,” he explained. “[They] need to reflect the world, the real world, and so it’s a great conversation to have.”
“I think actually Hollywood’s in a great position right now to be able to lead the way,” he added.
But while Jackman talks of the “conversation” surrounding the controversy, producer Effie Brown argues that it’s action that will ultimately boost diversity in a more long-lasting way.
“Women make up half the population and people of color make up 40 percent,” she said at the Sundance Film Festival, according to the BBC. “There is no such thing as innocent bystanding any more.”
Brown has been a longtime advocate for more equality within the film industry. Last year she also got into a memorable tiff over diversity in film with current Oscar nominee Matt Damon while filming an episode of Project Greenlight. On the show, the pair debated the importance of diverse casting in a scene Damon later said was edited, while also apologizing multiple times.
“Our voice is powerful,” she added. “We are a force of nature.”