VIOLA DAVIS WAS recently asked about roles she regrets passing on during a Q & A session with the New York Times. An interesting question, or at least one that would prompt an interesting response.
Viola – being Viola – decided to turn it on its head, and give an insight into the roles which she regets taking. The top of that list? ‘The Help’, which saw her secure her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
In ‘The Help’, Viola played Aibileen Clark, one of two black maids in 1963 Mississippi whose stories are told by a young white woman (Emma Stone) in a book exposing the everyday racism they face.
She explained that her regret was due to the way the movie failed to show the perspective of the black characters and to honour their voices.
“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” Viola said.
I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963, I want to hear how you really feel about it. I never heard that in the course of the movie.”
At the time of its release, ‘The Help’ was criticised for downplaying the true horror of living as a black person in the U.S. in the era of racial segregation as well as for perpetuating the myth of the white saviour by putting emphasis on the righteousness of white characters.
She went on to describing the “professional challenge she faces” as a spokesperson for black women in the industry (and beyond.)
Being that role model and picking up that baton when you’re struggling in your own life has been difficult. Looking at the deficit and seeing that once you’re on top, you can either take the role of leadership or you can toss it in the garbage and say, ‘I’m just out to save myself.’ I choose to be the leader.”
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