In a recent interview this week on CNN, promoting her new film Beautiful Creatures (out next Friday), actress Viola Davis said that, while playing a maid in The Help was great, she has no intention of ever playing a maid again.
“I’m tired of that. Me and Octavia Spencer, Aunjanue Ellis, Roslyn Ruff — we all played maids in The Help and it was fabulous. It’s a fabulous story because we were personalized and all of those things, but I think that people need to see an African American in the 21st century integrated in the life of this town and family who’s not in servitude.”
But don’t think that she now has second thoughts about her role in the film, or that the criticism she got bothered her, on anyone else in the film.
“They weren’t thinking about, ‘Everything is resting on my shoulders, how are people going to receive the movie?’ That is not your job as an actor. They were artists doing their job, in the moment, without vanity, with courage. And that’s what I respected about them, I really did. There’s no sense of stress in any of them. It was wonderful to watch.”
So do you think she’s right? That way too much is put on black actors for the roles that they play or that the criticism she got for playing a maid was justified?
And suppose, let’s say for argument’s sake, that Davis played the role of, say, a prostitute in a film, but it’s an incredibly wiritten, 3-dimensional role that any actress, black or white, would have jumped at to play. Should Davis pass on the part, or go for it?
As I previously wrote here on S & A, I once asked Davis about the role she played of a serial killer on an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and if she had second thoughts about a black woman playing the part of a sociopath who kills an entire family.
She told me that she didn’t and, in fact, it was just the opposite. She wanted to very much play the part, because no one had ever seen a black woman play the role of a serial killer before in anything, and that really intrigued her.
What do you say?