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Viola Davis Options Rights To Award-Winning Novel “The Personal History of Rachel DuPree”

Viola Davis Options Rights To Award-Winning Novel "The Personal History of Rachel DuPree"

A follow-up to my post a few days ago on Viola Davis creating a production company with her husband, and the projects she plans to produce with it, specifically one that she described as “a period piece about African-American homesteaders.

Well, I think we now know what the project is. Entertainment Weekly caught up with Viola while on the red carpet for Tuesday night’s premiere of The Help, and she not only talked about the news of her creating a production company to “expand the options for black actors” but also about a book she’s optioning titled The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, a 2008 title written by Ann Weisgarber, a book I haven’t read.

So what’s it about? Here’s how describes it:

The story begins as Rachel DuPree, wife of one of the only African-American ranchers in the Badlands in 1917, watches her husband, Isaac, lower their six-year-old daughter, Liz, down a well to fetch water in the midst of a terrible drought. Though she concedes it must be done, Rachel–heavily pregnant with her eighth child–is distraught, and her worries set off a chain reaction of second-guessing her loyalty to Isaac, whose schemes include buying out the neighboring ranch and leaving the family to find work during the winter. As a series of calamities befall the family, Rachel must decide whether to follow the only man she has ever loved or strike a new path of her own. Rachel’s homely voice isn’t the most inviting, and while the racial tensions between whites, blacks, and Native Americans is pretty surface-level, Weisgarber’s depiction of survival in the harsh Badlands has its moments.

Hmmm… another title to add to my ever-growing to-read pile. Anyone read it? And if so, thoughts?

It’s a period piece, as already stated, and given many of your reactions to past posts on films set in America’s turbulent racial past, I suspect some of you won’t be too thrilled about this one.

It spans generations, and we’re committed to it,” Viola said.

Naturally, the question of funding immediately arises. This isn’t the kind of material Hollywood studios are particularly interested in (considering the main protagonists aren’t white, nor does it appear the story is told from a white person’s POV). But who knows. Viola’s name may carry a little more weight now than it did a year ago, and she does headline at least one other upcoming drama.

Although she may also find financing independently. I’m guessing she also plans to star in the film adaptation.

But I’m certainly curious, and will buy the book to read, and share my thoughts on it afterward.

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People of African descent are truly fascinating and I would rather read a novel, see a film and discuss anything regarding people of African descent especially when they’re portrayed in a positive light.


I realize that we people of African descent are fascinating, but why do all these white women wanna write about us?

They never ever ever get it right, yet they always get movies made of THEIR stories, case in point, The Help.

They write about us so speculatively, like we’re some mythical creatures and nobody knows how we really talk or behave, so they get to make stuff up and it’s WACK.

Perfect example of that is in the book The Help, when Abilene and the roach have a standoff in the kitchen and she compares the blackness of her skin to that of a roach.

NOT EVEN THE MOST SELF HATING NEGRO I KNOW WOULD DO THAT, but Kathryn Stockett thought a black woman would think that way, so she wrote it.

It might not be fair to throw Ann Weisgarber under the whites-writing-about-black folks bus, but I’m not gagging to read her story.


I would definitely be interested in seeing this. As another poster commented, any historical pieces involving us are going to have some racial conflict, but it’s refreshing to see something that isn’t Jim Crow South and tackles a period in which we’re rarely seen.


@ Cynthia

Maybe but probably not.
Hell No.
Not unless TP is producer/writer/actor.


She should talk with TV One or try to sucker *persuade* HBO into airing it.


Sounds interesting. It could be a possible opportunity for meaty roles for Black actors. I haven’t read the book, but I bet that Ms. Davis could do amazing things with the material. Good for her.

Vanessa Martinez

This sounds interesting. I will definitely support this project. :-)


I’m very excited for Ms. Davis and will definitely support the film. Someone mentioned us complaining about black actors only wanting a paycheck; it’s great that Davis will take that paycheck, flip it, and make something work for not only herself, but in a way that will open doors for more black actors and actresses.

I’m so excited for her that I might (and that’s a big might) even go see
The Help just to make a contribution towards her aspirations.

But it definitely won’t be opening weekend. The more press that film gets, the more I despise it.


I admire Viola’s determination though, I commend for her for at least trying. So often people on this board have complained that black actors only care about making a pay cheque. Although I will admit I hear a lot of actors say they have a production company but does Viola Davis have the power to get this movie made I am not so sure? If it was Oprah saying this I know the movie would get made because she has the kind of power. Maybe, Viola will want this movie to be made for television or cable movie which would be a lot safer than making it into a feature film.


So the real question is…Will Dreamworks support her on this one since she did “The Help” and they’re going to make good money from that? Will the NAACP have a big forum and encourage everyone to see it? Will the first lady get a private screening of the film? Will Lady O and Tyler Perry send out “go see this film” tweets to all their followers?


Black folk in the Badlands? Yeah. Lowering a child into a well….sets off a chain of bad events….Isaac with shady investments….Isaac leaves the family….Rachel must forge ahead on her own? Interesting. Eight children? My womb aches for her plight.

Not interested in reading the book, but viewing the film, once made, sure. Good luck.


Given that most–hell, all–of American history when it comes to black folks is going to have some racial issues involved (especially during 1917), it goes without saying that some of that would come to the fore. Not sure if it can be helped. But these are historical eras where we were invisible as a people in the media, so it’s good if these kinds of stories get told now, even if they aren’t everyone’s cups of tea (as well they shouldn’t be). Of course, the finished product remains to be seen, but sounds like a good premise to me so far.


Hmm, I smell castor oil flick.

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