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Why Viola Davis Says Black Actresses Are In Crisis Mode + Actresses On Light Vs. Dark Debate

Why Viola Davis Says Black Actresses Are In Crisis Mode + Actresses On Light Vs. Dark Debate

2 more short teases from OWN network’s broadcast of Oprah Winfrey’s hour-long in-depth conversation with 4 black actresses as they each open up about the challenges, criticism and competition they face as black actresses today: Alfre Woodard, Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad and Gabrielle Union

The episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter, will air this Sunday, 9pm, and will be immediately followed by Dark Girls.

Yesterday Tambay posed a survey question: What do you hope is covered during the hour-long conversation? What would you like to see Oprah and the 4 actresses discuss, even though the episode has already been shot?
In addition to competition amongst black actresses, which Alfre Woodard talked about in yesterday’s clip, in the 2 new teases below, Viola talks black actresses being in crisis mode, and the 4 actresses tackle the light vs dark skin debate, within the industry as well as in the black community – two other topics that some of you might hope are discussed on the show. 

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This was an interesting show to watch, a big fan of all these ladies, and it was an intelligent, insightful, and thought-provoking conversation about the limitations on roles and opportunites for African American actresses. Thank you Oprah:)


All the ladies featured last night were in a Tyler Perry film. :-D


I agree with Viola Davis points but this conversation is outdated because we have the tools and ability to create and distribute our own films now, telling the stories and getting a chance to play a variety of roles that we always wanted to have a chance to play and see. All these ladies talking at this roundtable are millionaires with one being a billionaire, so instead of talking about it how about getting together and making it happen instead of waiting on hollywood to do the right thing. A lot of these rich black celebs are scared to invest in themselves, it's like they need white folks to hold their hand for them to believe they can do it and achieve things. The good news is the up and coming indie filmmakers and actors are not buying into this nonsense of waiting on hollywood and they are doing for self and making it happen. So just let these rich black celebs complain and we will be the ones that are getting things done telling a variety of stories and giving black actors and actresses opportunities to play different roles and have a lot to choose from.


I personally think that Viola Davis is insanely talented, a brilliant actress, and should have won the Oscar for "The Help" hands down.

But I sometimes feel — and this is probably out of place and may be not appropriate for me to say as white male — that some of the things she is always, continuously, repetitively complaining about are some kind of self-fulfilling prophecies. And this is not to say that I do not acknowledge the huge difficulty for black actresses that still exists, and I can absolutely understand her frustration, as with her talent, she should get far more accolades and juicy roles and projects .

BUT I sometimes wish she would send out a more positive message and acknowledge how much has changed in the last 50 years, even if there is a great deal that still needs to change.

In this new millennium, the first black actress has won an Oscar as best leading actress (Halle Berry), and three more black actresses (Davis, Gabourey Sidibe, Quvenzhané Wallis) were nominated in that category. That's four nominees in 11 years compared to six nominees in the previous 70 years of Academy Award history.
Moreover, since 2000, eight black actresses have been nominated in the supporting actress category — compared to nine nominees since Hattie McDaniel in 1939! And there are THREE winners in those twelve years (Jennifer Hudson, Mo'Nique, Octavia Spencer) compared to only two winners in the 70 years before that.

I mean, things are changing (far too) slowly, but they ARE changing, and I wish Viola Davis, a two-time Academy Award-nominee (the only black actress to have two nominations with Whoopie Goldberg), two-time-Tony winning, incredibly talented actress, who was the lead in the giant box office hit "The Help" and has the female lead in Michael Mann's next big-budged action thriller, "Cyber", would not victimize herself so much but be proud of her incredible, and well-deserved, success.

I think it's great that she herself is pushing a biopic about Barbara Jordan, where she'll play the lead, and I hope that the film version of "Fences" with Denzel Washington is going to happen.


Viola Davis probably the most honest black actress I have ever seen interviewed about this subject. When I hear Halle Berry complain on Actor's Studio about her problems with Hollywood it is nowhere close to Viola's struggle.

Halle Berry has multi million dollar endorsement deal with Revlon, she ALWAYS gets the best scripts compared to other black women.
Berry gets to headline films and Viola does not and most of it has to do with the fact Viola is a dark skinned black woman. Even though Viola Davis and Angela Bassett can act circles around Halle Berry she has the Eurocentric appearance which Hollywood prefers.
Viola Davis has started her own production company so for the people saying she's just bitching and complaining they are WRONG. Davis is just frustrated and I can tell and it is disappointing this talented lady doesn't get a shot at headlining a Hollywood film on her OWN.
Hollywood doesn't even give Viola a chance and that's the saddest part.

It seems to me Hollywood is waiting for the next mixed race, half white actress to give her a shot at being a leading lady. Wake up Hollywood, give Viola Davis a chance to headline a movie on her OWN this lady can act!


Many on this thread have shared their disappointment about Viola's comment regarding how "rats" scrambling for a "piece of cheese" is a reflection of how "natural" dissension and competition is with Black Actresses in times of crisis. People on this thread took offense to that, but just LOOK at the dissension, opposition, criticism, name calling, degradation, and MORE in this very feed! The tag line of this blog is "Black People Supporting Black Projects", but just LOOK at our REAL reactions!! A house divided against itself can't stand, but their is enormous power in unity and love.

Let's LOVE one another.

Mark and Darla

What is there to lose for a black actress to read a screenplay from a nobody, maybe something maybe nothing.

To black actresses, when the nobody approaches you with a screenplay, say thank you and give the nobody a due date 'if you don't hear from me in six month that mean I am not interest' and move on.

To the nobody screenwriter if you don't hear from the parties in six month move on.

My sentiment to black actresses, think outside the box when it comes to searching for meaty roles.


Oprah's comment is interesting, I don't think colorlism came from black people there is a legacy of this from the days of slavery.
Why isn't Gabrielle Union A list? Gabrielle is gorgeous, she's one of the hottest women in Hollywood and she's a very talented actress. Gabrielle has expanded beyond the black romantic comedy genre. She's done controversial films such as falling in love with a skin head in Neo Ned, she's done indie films such as In Our Nature. Yet, Gabrielle still has not had a breakthrough role despite being in the film business since the late 1990s. Why is that?

However, I do believe now that black people can be more proactive to at least make some kind of change. Alfre's comment is cogent Hollywood as everyone knows prefers black women that are mixed race, closer to the white image. The few black actresses who are getting the big film roles are mixed, Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton, Beyonce ect. Viola's biggest role to date is playing a MAID. Also, to the people calling Viola uppity just because the lady is college educated and a refined black woman doesn't make her uppity she's just smart.

Clayton Broomes Jr

Here we go with the same conversation. Never any practical, out-of-the-box, unconventional, politically incorrect solutions. Just the same woe-is-me rubbish that doesn't amount to anything, only to be replicated in another 10 years with a new generation of black actors, and the 10 years after that.

I find it interesting that these women truly feel there are not any projects out there for them. The projects are out there. These actors are just suffering from the perception of their own self-importance and reducing themselves to be helplessly at the mercy of decisions made for them by their representation, which contributes to the notion that they are something special.

They can take a few notes from Hallie Berry's book. She has found projects and produced for either herself or other black actress, like S. Epatha Merkerson in "Lackawanna Blues". She has and continues to make things happen, only slowing down because of motherhood, and actors like Forest Whitaker and Octavia Spencer seem to be following in her footsteps.

In fact, I have a leading role for Phylicia Rashad in a feature film. True story. It's a role that is perfect for her. Now, I wasn't trying to just drop some script in her lap. I started writing it as a short in 2006 and developed it into a feature shortly after, while working on other projects, like my first feature film — the award winning Pro-Black Sheep. I've been working out the project for Rashad since. The script was mentored by the same people who serve as mentors at the Sundance screenwriting Lab. I approached Rashad's manager and they shut me down at "Hello". If an offer isn't in your first sentence with them, they do not want to hear anything from you. I pleaded with this woman, telling her that Rashad is perfect for this film, and suddenly I started sounding like everyone else who call them saying the same thing.

These reps know if actors attach themselves to the project that it only helps with increasing awareness for the film and finding financing. But they don't give a shit. They want their cut upfront.

Then a big-time casting director in Hollywood responded to my project and she risked her name by putting the script in the hands of Rashad's L.A. agent. They liked the script, and really spoke fondly of its ending, but they also wanted an offer before taking it to Rashad. Shortly after that, it was optioned by Forest Whitaker's company and I spent 6 months revising it with one of their best, most knowledgeable Development Executives. The script went through the ringer, and I'm still working on it after getting some minor notes from the people at Blacklist that can only make it better.

My point is quality roles are out there for Phylicia Rashad and all of these actresses. But maybe their not putting themselves in positions that can allow these roles to find them. They're sitting back, letting their reps handle everything. Meanwhile, these scripts with quality roles for black actresses are either languishing in "turnaround limbo" or on the shelf collecting dust. These people need to get on facebook or Twitter or something, make themselves more accessible. They'll be confronted by a few people playing games but at least they'll have an opportunity to see what's out there and help bring projects they like from script to screen. They can also take a few notes from Angelina Jolie who doesn't even have an agent. She gets it. Our lovely black actresses don't. Sure, you have to reach Jolie's level of success to make such calls I suppose but they have to find a way to work around them. Sorry. I said it. It may be the "politically incorrect" thing to say but it's a practical solution that can lead into the right direction.

I'm glad to know that their reps are blocking their success. I'd hate to think it's just plain'ole laziness.


These types of programs will always leave something to be desired. Each of these women are still working, still competing and knows very well they're on national TV. Consequently, they can't and will never say what's really on their minds. However, if I had to choose the actress who I believe will be the most "honest", open and unafraid to express her real emotions, I'd cast my vote for Viola Davis. The rest seem to be a wee bit protective of their "image" and maybe somewhat phony.

Listen, in this world of "political correctness"; a world in-which a personality's every word is scrutinized, analized, miscontrued and possibly used against them, a national TV show is not the place to let it all hang out. Therefore, the "truth" will always take a back seat. Why?

Well, take for example the reactions/feedback/hate Viola received by telling the truth about the pitiful scripts she was being offered by black writers. Oh lord, some folks lost their damn minds. The most ridiculous and silly accusations has continued to follow her.

Heck, when I take a deeper look at the ladies on Oprah's couch, I see another who may pull back on the reins. Well, Alfre Woodard is married to a white man. OUCH! I am going to leave that sitting right there.

However, Oprah said something on "color" which I believe some have twisted. She said "That comes from us". She was not suggesting or implying we (black folks) were the inventors of colorism. She was speaking in the present… we practice colorism.

Anyway, I wish there was a show in which the participants would receive universal immunity from any type of "persecution" for anything they said. You know, take for instance poor Paula Dean, she admitted to using the N-Word a few times in her life and she got fired. So I'm thinking about a showed titled "A Fly On The Wall: The voice which sees and hears but can't talk". Come on now, I bet the phrase "rats on a piece of cheese" would be a mild version of the truth.


I find it disturbing that Viola Davis compared Black actresses seeking roles, like the ones sitting on the couch next to her, to rats on a piece of cheese. Something really unsettling about that.


Did Oprah say, "That's comes from us?"….. COLORISM comes from us? The black community?
Absolutely not! I wish folks would stop pacifying the issue and get to the root cause of the matter. Colorism is not an issue that started w/in the community from its members. It was an outside act that now has perpetuated and it remains a schism within the community at large.

S.B. Moseley

Wow! I want to change this ..ish Baby!!!!


Wow, just one hour huh, Oprah could've easily gotten two hours out of this. I really can't think of anything that hasn't been discussed already, but it will be interesting to watch.


so juiced…can't wait to see this.


To Mrs. Rashad’s question: It will take as long as it takes to change the way that people raise their children. It will also take as long as it takes to rid those who started this whole skin tone debate of their insecurities. Insecure people make other people feel bad because of the color and/or of their skin.

By the way, the lighting is beautiful on that set. Everyone’s skin is just glowing.


I adore Viola. I think she's crazy talent and gorgeous with her natural hair. But I swear I can't stand to listen to her talk. Something about her way of explaining (or even "excusing") things just bothers me (ever since that interview she did with Tavis about The Help) and her need to dominate any conversation. I would have loved to hear more from Rashad and Woodard. I would definitely like to see this whole discussion. Very interesting.


I love Phylicia Rashad! "But Lord, goodness, how long is it gonna take?" Valid question Phylicia.


We already know this right. Blaxploitation documentary made valid points as to why the Hollywood is the way it is. It is about keeping White males employed, directing, scriptwriting, and so on. They keep Blacks out of the jobs and out of the movies. It is intentional and it is called Racism White Supremacy.

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