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Motion Picture Academy Invites Largest Class Ever in Diversity Push

by Lakshmi Gandhi /
An Oscar statue is seen at the nominations announcement for the 87th Academy Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 15, 2015.PHIL McCARTEN / Reuters

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited 774 new members to join Wednesday in a push to continue to diversify its ranks.

The 2017 class is the academy's largest class ever, according to Variety, breaking last year’s record of 683 invited new members and is part of the organization’s vow, unveiled through a 2016 initiative, to increase the number of women and people of color in its membership.

This year's invitees include “Get Out” director Jordan Peele, “Nightcrawler” star Riz Ahmed, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “The Girl On The Train” star Édgar Ramírez, Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, and Oscar-nominated actress Naomie Harris.

The new class is 39 percent female and 30 percent non-white, according to the academy. Since 2015, the academy's overall female membership has grown from 25 percent to 28 percent and its non-white membership from 8 percent to 13 percent.

RELATED: Diverse Casting Results In Box Office Success, Says New Study

“The idea of representing your community has become a very accepted notion,” John Cho, another invited new member, told NBC News earlier this year. “I think [diversity] happens naturally as long as people are producing what they want to produce.”

Other names in the new class include “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra, comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Leslie Jones, “Andi Mack” star Lauren Tom, “Agents of Shield” actress Ming-Na Wen, and “Law & Order: SVU” actor BD Wong.

First founded 90 years ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences began with just under 300 members in 1927, according to the academy. It now consists of more than 7,000 members who work in 17 different branches in the world of film.

RELATED: #OscarsSoWhite: Academy Head Vows ‘Big Change’ Coming After Backlash

"It’s up to all of us to ensure that new faces and voices are seen and heard, and to take a shot on the next generation the way someone took a shot on each of us," academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement posted to the organization's website.

Boone Isaacs vowed to diversify the academy in 2016 after the group was criticized for not nominating a person of color in an acting category for the second year in a row, leading to the revival of the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign.

She declared that the organization would take "dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our membership."

"This is a difficult but important conversation, and it's time for big changes,” Boone Isaacs said at the time.

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