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Viola Davis has revealed that a director she worked with earlier in her career once referred to her by the name of his maid.

In an interview with Variety this week amid Cannes Film Festival coverage, Davis touched on her recently released book Finding Me, as well as shared reflections on her upbringing and how it made an impact on who she is today. Around the 32:37 mark in the video below, Davis pointed out what she says remains a widely seen shortcoming in terms of storytelling within the film and TV industries, ultimately resulting in a mention of the incident with an unnamed director.

“In terms of storytelling that’s expansive, that is as expansive as one’s imagination, that’s not happening yet,” she told journalist Elizabeth Wagmeister. “There’s just certain genres and certain storytelling that—when you’re in a room as a producer—you have to really fight for those stories.”

Davis continued, giving two hypothetical examples outlining her larger point.

“Like if I wanted to play a mother whose son lived in a challenging neighborhood, low-income neighborhood, and he was  a gang member who died in a drive-by shooting, I could get that made,” she said. “If I played a woman who was, I don’t know, looking to recreate herself by, I don’t know, flying to Nice and sleeping with five men at the age of 56 looking like me, I’m going to have a hard time pushing that one. Even as a Viola Davis. Because people can’t reconcile the Blackness with spiritual awakening, and sexuality. It’s too much. It’s too much when you look like ‘my maid Louise.’”

At the time of the director incident, Davis explained, she and the unnamed filmmaker had known each other for around a decade.

“I actually had a director who did that to me, who said ‘Louise!’” She said. “And I’d known for him, like, 10 years and he called me Louise. And I found out it was because his maid’s name was Louise. So that has not changed.”

Asked to clarify when this occurred, Davis said she was “maybe around 30” at the time. “What you have to realize is those sort of microaggressions, they happen all the time,” she said. 

See the full discussion above/below, via Variety. Davis also discusses colorism, the choices brought on by “getting your heart broken a lot,” and much more.

This September, Viola Davis will be seen in the historical drama The Woman King, which she also produced under her and husband Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions banner. The film, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, is slated for release on Sept. 16 and also stars Thuso Mbedu and John Boyega.

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