Daniel Kaluuya is not Leslie Odom Jr. And Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. journalist Margaret Gardiner says she knows that, despite appearing to confuse the two Black actors during the Oscars’ backstage Q&A Sunday night. But she’s already bracing for no one to believe her.
“#DanielKaluuya I did not mistake you for Leslie Odom Jnr. I’m sorry if it seemed that way,” she tweeted Monday morning. “I had wanted to ask about Regina King not being nominated as a director for One Night in Miami, and your win for Judas and the Black Messiah for the community at this time.”
That’s not what it sounded like in a video shot Sunday night, embedded above. The question comes at the 4:28 mark, and reporters were all present virtually rather than in person.
Via email Monday, Gardiner told the Los Angeles Times she was covering the Oscars for the Sunday Times of South Africa, even though she linked to the U.K.’s Sunday Times Magazine in an Instagram post from the event.
“I want to congratulate you on this,” Gardiner, a South African journalist and former Miss Universe, said to Kaluuya. “I’ve been following you since the beginning of your career, and I was wondering what it meant for you to be directed by Regina [King], what this means for you at this time with the world in the state that it’s in.”
“Say that question again, please,” asked Kaluuya, who had just won the supporting actor Oscar for his work in “Judas and the Black Messiah.” The sound was going in and out during the session, so it wasn’t clear if he simply didn’t hear her, or if he was confused by the reference to the director of “One Night in Miami…,” which starred supporting actor nominee Odom Jr. (who was also up for original song).
Gardiner then restated a version of her question that didn’t mention King, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for director last month but wasn’t nominated for an Oscar. The British actor gave a rather generic answer, which Gardiner said confused her in the moment.
“I was kind of surprised that he didn’t welcome an opportunity” to discuss the current mood in Hollywood, the HFPA member told The Times in a phone interview Monday.
Gardiner, who was unaware at the time of a tempest brewing on Twitter about the situation, noted that Odom Jr. “was in gold” Sunday night. (She’s also the fashion editor for the HFPA’s website, goldenglobes.com.)
She said her intention was to ask Kaluuya, who also won a Golden Globe for the “Black Messiah” role, what he thought of King as a director and about her not being nominated for an Oscar. But after the actor couldn’t hear her question, she altered it so as not to bring her Globes thoughts into the Oscars conversation.
“I had wanted to ask him about winning at this moment … It’s a zeitgeist moment of people finally recognizing the inequalities of organizations,” she said.
“When I said it, it came out that he couldn’t hear me,” Gardiner added, a few moments before excusing herself from the interview with The Times to go address the situation on social media.
She tweeted her response soon afterward, then added in a later tweet, “When I [listened] to the audio, I do understand, but there was no confusion.”
“I’m sorry you assume I can’t tell these two talented men apart,” Gardiner tweeted in reply to a critic who said her “fake intended question is just as offensive.”
“I messed up my question,” Gardiner added. “I won’t be believed. I apologize to Daniel, the assumption reflects the very world I wanted to ask about. I cannot defend this. I apologize.”
Gardiner’s affiliation with the HFPA, which produces the Golden Globes every year, comes at an awkward time for the organization following a recent Los Angeles Times investigation that found allegations of ethical lapses and self-dealing as well as no Black voters among its ranks. The HFPA also opted out of hiring a diversity consultant last summer, as was proposed by late former President Lorenzo Soria after the death of George Floyd.
Through interviews with more than 50 people — including studio publicists, entertainment executives and seven current and former members — as well as court filings and internal financial documents and communications, The Times painted a picture of an embattled organization still struggling to shake its reputation as a group whose awards or nominations can be influenced by expensive junkets and publicity swag.
Helen Hoehne, HFPA vice president, addressed the controversy during the Golden Globes ceremony in February. “Tonight, while we celebrate the work of artists from around the globe, we recognize we have our own work to do,” she said. “Just like in film and television, representation is vital. We must have Black journalists in our organization.”
Relatively few HFPA members work full time for major overseas outlets, and some other reporters who were covering the Oscars on Sunday were upset that Gardiner’s question got through while they were shut out.
“Yoooooo I was [multiple queasy-face emojis] during this especially since I raised my hand but lost a space to this person. So… yeah,” tweeted Tonja Renée Stidhum, an entertainment reporter for the Root, a website whose slogan is, “The Blacker the Content the Sweeter the Truth.”
Times staff writers Anousha Sakoui, Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg contributed to this report.