I bet you didn't know that the role of Annalise Keating in How To Get Away With Murder was originally written for a white actress, but Viola Davis went and took what was hers, having us anxious every Thursday.
Viola is starring in new film, Widows, directed by Oscar-winner Steve McQueen who also directed the hit film 12 Years A Slave. Davis' track record will assure you that whatever the direction this new film blows in, as long as she is playing the lead role, you are in for one hell of a performance. The widespread acclaim of her acting skills is what landed Viola yet another role written for a white woman, a role that directors compromised their stance on because they did not want to risk losing such a profound talent. A victory? Hell yes!
But that makes me wonder, how many Black actresses blow out the competition in auditions but do not land the part because the role was never intended to be played by a woman of color? Would the Titanic have been a little more lit if Rose had kinky twists? Would The Devil Wears Prada have starred timeless beauty Angela Basset in waist-length braids? All jokes aside, show business is a power struggle between talent, money, and politics for all actresses, where until you reach a certain level of success, you have to take what you can get. Davis told NPR in a recent interview:
"It is a business that until you are on my level or even at my level, your power, and your choices are limited. If anyone says anything else they're lying to you."
(CHRIS PIZZELLO / CHRIS PIZZELLO/INVISION/AP)
The plot thickens for Black actresses just as in every walk of life for us where we are a double minority, Black and female in a society where Eurocentric standards of beauty and femininity reign strong. Davis recounts her experience as she bears the weight of being highly successful and socially conscious:
"I always say that if I were not a celebrity, I would be invisible. It's a larger question about how Black women are treated, how our femininity and beauty is appreciated, our mess, our complexity...But that's because we haven't felt supported. And we have never felt adored."
Black women have to be twice as smart, three times as strong, have a great sense of humor, and about five times the talent to get half as far as our white counterparts in this world. Many of us are learning this as we leave the campfire communities of college and navigate through the workforce where you agonize whether or not wearing your natural hair to work is professional, meanwhile, your white manager walks around with visible tattoos and piercings… but I digress.
The whole experience is exhausting, however, Viola Davis deserves much praise for taking steps to tackle Hollywood with her platform.
Viola Davis and Steve McQueen in Chicago / New York Times Whitten Sabbatini for The New York Times
Directors like Steve McQueen use their brilliant eye to continuously bring extremely talented Black actresses to the big screen:
"I felt that adoration from Steve McQueen. I felt that he saw all the things everyone else sees. I mean, I have a deep voice. I'm not a size 2. You know people feel like I'm take-charge — that's how I come off. You know, I'm a leader. All of those things, that's how people see me. But then he sees my shyness. He sees the part of me that is very feminine and fragile."
Not only do we see you Viola, but we see bits and pieces of ourselves in each and every one of your roles. Representation matters!
Widows | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX www.youtube.com
Feature image by Chris Pizzello.