Thursday, September 25, 2014

Vote with your remote

“Constantly being called ‘black ugly nigger’ — those words together.” — Viola Davis

I'M A Viola Davis fan. A brilliant actress who has not received the opportunities her talent should otherwise command, she's finally caught a break debuting tonight on ABC as the star of a new TV series called How to Get Away with Murder. In so doing she's breaking new ground for herself and us. 

Certainly there's nothing new about a television crime drama. What's unusual is the star's age, race and color: she's a 49-year-old, African-American woman who's much darker-skinned than we're used to seeing on the small or big screen, at least in a leading lady role. Viola has been frank about the ways her age, sex, race and color have been major obstacles for her. 

I suggest that we all get behind this gifted actress in her new show. I'm certain she'll be far beyond good, and the bonus is that in the process, we can vote with our remotes — for diversity, inclusion and expanded sensibilities.

Here's a New York Times Magazine interview with Viola Davis from September 12, 2014. You go girl!!



Viola Davis as You’ve Never Seen Her Before: Leading Lady!
By Amy Wallace
September. 12, 2014

“Even when I get the fried-chicken special of the day, I have to dig into it like it’s filet mignon,” Viola Davis said. She was speaking not of meals, but of roles. During her 30-year career as an actress, Davis has played a crack-addicted mother (“Antwone Fisher”), the mother of an abducted child (“Prisoners”) and the mother of James Brown (“Get On Up”). Her characters often serve to “hold up the wall” of the narrative, she said, like the empathetic best friend in “Eat, Pray, Love” or the kindly stranger in “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Or the kindly mental-institution psychiatrist in “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” the kindly rape-treatment counselor in “Trust” or the kindly medium in “Beautiful Creatures.”

“I always got the phone call that said: ‘I have a great project for you. You’re going to be with, hypothetically, Vanessa Redgrave, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening,’ ” she said, sitting in the living room of her San Fernando Valley home, barefoot on the couch in a gray T-shirt and leggings, her hair wrapped under a black turban. “Then I get the script, and I have a role that lasts for a page or two.”

Yet over and over again, Davis has made these marginalized characters memorable. She earned her first Oscar nomination for eight minutes of screen time as the mother of a possible victim of molestation in “Doubt.” Four years later, she spent months conceiving an intricate back story to enliven Aibileen Clark, a housemaid with a sixth-grade education, in “The Help.” Davis earned her second Oscar nomination but soon enough returned to playing yet another government functionary or military officer. “I have been given a lot of roles that are downtrodden, mammy-ish,” she said. “A lot of lawyers or doctors who have names but absolutely no lives. You’re going to get your three or four scenes, you’re not going to be able to show what you can do. You’re going to get your little bitty paycheck, and then you’re going to be hungry for your next role, which is going to be absolutely the same. That’s the truth.”

This fall, Davis, who is 49, is finally getting her shot at the anti-mammy. As the star of “How to Get Away With Murder,” a new series on ABC, Davis plays Annalise Keating, a flinty, stylish defense lawyer and law professor who employs her top students to help her win cases. After those students become entangled in a murder plot on their Ivy League campus, viewers will wonder whether Keating herself was involved in the crime. Davis plays Keating as cerebral and alluring, a fierce taskmaster who uses her sex appeal to her advantage, with a handsome husband and a lover on the side. It’s the kind of woman, in other words, that she has never gotten to play.

“How to Get Away With Murder,” which includes Shonda Rhimes among its executive producers, will be shown on Thursday nights after Rhimes’s two hit series, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” a generous lead-in that the network hopes will result in an instant hit. But that will depend, in part, on whether viewers embrace Davis — “a woman of color, of a certain age and a certain hue,” as she says — in her new capacity. “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this. And you can’t even mention Halle Berry or Kerry Washington,” she told me, referring to two African-American stars with notably lighter skin.

To read the entire article click on this link.

1 comment:

  1. I've never seen it. Perhaps I should dvr it and see. Thanks Kelly.

    ReplyDelete