Despite my criticism for “The Help,” I’m a big fan of Viola Davis.
I’ve mentioned several times on Colorlines.com/NOW that I’m a fan of Davis because she’s one of the most politicized working actors today.
With her acceptance speech at the SAG awards, she skipped thanking Hollywood elites and instead told the students in her hometown (that’s in bankruptcy) to dream big.
She’s also never afraid to have a challenging talk about the role of women and women of color in Hollywood. Even if it’s with another actress.
And most recently I love her because in an industry where wigs, weaves and extensions are all too common and expected for women of any color, Davis has gone natural.
An excerpt from her interview with the LA Times Magazine:
“You can be in the business for 23 years, which I have been, and suddenly something happens that wakes people up. For me, that was being in a movie with Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman,” Davis says of Doubt. “It makes people realize you’re there. Otherwise you’re that black girl who had a guest or costar role in a TV show here or there.”
It’s not that Davis isn’t grateful. “I don’t feel bitterness,” she insists. But even as a second Oscar campaign awaits for her part in The Help, Davis is not afraid to point out the weaknesses in her industry. Her next target isn’t another lead role. It’s producing, a task she feels she must undertake if she and other black actresses are to get more fulfilling work. Young people need to be mentored to aspire to something fulfilling.
“I am doing this out of necessity,” she says. “If I am not the instrument of change, I can meander through this business and be the black woman who always has two or three scenes but with fabulous actors around me.”
To that end, she has optioned The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, a sweeping novel about an African-American woman struggling to farm the Badlands in 1917. She is developing a new picture–a thriller with Spencer as a coproducer–but is always on the lookout. “I have a stack of books in mind,” she says.
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