Can Brit Naomie Harris (‘Moonlight’) challenge Viola Davis (‘Fences’) at the BAFTA Awards?

It’s a well-known fact that the BAFTAs like to award Brits; they are after all the British equivalent to the Academy Awards. Given the chance, they will often award a home-town favorite, and since the BAFTAs are now handed out before the Oscars (before 2001 they were presented after the Oscars) it gives them a chance to elevate one of their own. However, there are always exceptions, and this year’s Best Supporting Actress race between Viola Davis (“Fences”) and Brit Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”) is an exception.

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Harris was born in London, England, and got her start in British TV series like “Simon and the Witch,” “Runaway Bay” and “The Tomorrow People.” She should easily be the frontrunner when you also factor in her work in the Bond films “Skyfall” and “Spectre.” She was even singled out in 2007 by BAFTA, earning a nomination for Rising Star.

Davis on the other hand was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina, and has been working on stage and screen for over 20 years. Like Harris she is also a past BAFTA nominee for Best Actress in 2011 for “The Help.” But Davis has been on an awards roll, besting Harris for Best Supporting Actress at the Critics’ Choice Awards, Golden Globes and SAG Awards. Momentum is in her favor.

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According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds, Davis is expected to prevail once again with odds of 2/11. In second place hoping that patriotism will move the momentum her way is Harris with odds of 10/1. This is the closest any of Davis’s competitors have been all year!

The simplest reason why Harris will not win is that it’s Davis’s year, and if ignored it would be a glaring oversight especially when you consider her co-star Denzel Washington (“Fences”) was snubbed again by the Brits. When an American performer is the overwhelming favorite the BAFTAs will typically award that person. For example, no one was going to stop last year’s Best Actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”), even 2014 BAFTA and Oscar champ Eddie Redmayne (“The Danish Girl”). Julianne Moore ( “Still Alice”) was a similar case in 2014; it was her year, and Brits Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”) and Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”) could not break her winning streak. Also that year no one was stopping Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”), not even Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”) on her home turf. Everyone wants to be on the winning team and no one wants to look foolish.

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But what truly levels the playing field is that Harris plays an American in “Moonlight.” She should probably remember what happened to another fellow Brit playing a drug-addicted American: Christian Bale (“The Fighter,” 2010). Bale picked up every prize except his hometown award, losing it to Geoffrey Rush (“The King’s Speech”). A similar situation occurred in 2013: Sally Hawkins also played an American in “Blue Jasmine” but wasn’t the BAFTAs choice — they went with Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”), who had a BAFTA IOU after losing Best Actress for “Silver Linings Playbook” the year before.

If Harris should pull off winning the BAFTA it will send pundits scrambling trying to figure out if she can repeat at the Oscars. The problem for all of Davis’s fellow nominees is she has been the frontrunner since she announced she would be competing in the Supporting Actress category (she won a Tony for that role in the lead race). With less than a month until the Oscars, can she still change the conversation?

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Be sure to make your BAFTA predictionsWeigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our BAFTA odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before winners are announced on Feb. 12. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the BAFTAs taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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