Lee on Good Morning America

Spike Lee garnered some attention earlier this week when he posted a short essay on Instagram, criticizing the Academy Awards membership and Hollywood studio heads for the lack of diversity in nominations and in executive offices in the industry. Many readers, The A.V. Club included, took his words as a clear call for a boycott in response to the exclusion of any African-American nominees in this year’s acting and directing categories (hence the resurgence of the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite). However, during an appearance today on Good Morning America to promote his upcoming Michael Jackson documentary, a genial Lee stressed his lack of a direct call for a boycott. He also referenced the currently omnipresent pop-culture phenomenon Hamilton, which means you now have a reason to once more bug the rest of us about seeing that show.

“Here’s the thing. I have never used the word boycott,” Lee emphasized. “All I said was my beautiful wife Tanya, we’re not coming. That’s it, and I gave the reasons. So I never used the word boycott.” Instead, Lee and his wife will be at the Knicks game—which he spends some time hyping—and indicates others should make up their own minds as well. “Do you,” he said, and meant it, even when host George Stephanopoulos pressed him on whether Chris Rock should step down as host in protest. “Chris Rock is a grown-ass man. He can do what he wants to do, and I support either way.” He also offered some support to Academy head Cheryl Boone Isaacs, pointing out that despite her calls for reform, “we can’t say hocus pocus, presto change-o and the membership’s going to change overnight.”


He also reiterated his previous point that the larger issue isn’t the nominations, but rather the lack of diversity in the studio system. “Have you seen Hamilton yet?” he asks Stephanopoulos. “You know that song, ‘Gotta be in the room’?” (Presumably Lee is referencing “The Room Where It Happens.”) “We’re not in the room. The executives when they have these greenlight meetings quarterly, they look at the scripts and see who’s in it and decide what we’re making and what we’re not making.” He offers a version of the NFL’s Rooney rule, which requires any opening for a head coach position to involve interviewing minority candidates, which has led to increased numbers of African-American coaches. Lee then ends by emitting a Michael Jackson-esque falsetto “Hee-hee-hee,” which is how you know he was in a pretty good mood.