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Viola Davis Says Television Gives Her More Interesting Characters To Play Than Feature Films

by Sergio
July 16, 2014 10:39 AM
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Viola Davis

In a sort of a follow up to my piece yesterday regarding Sophie Okonedo’s comments on the lack of opportunities for her as an actress in the U.K. compared to the States (HERE), here’s Viola Davis making a somewhat related comment, saying that television has given her opportunities that are far more interesting and complex, that she hasn’t been able to get in features films.

Yesterday, at the Television Critics Press Tour in Los Angeles, where she appeared to promote her new ABC series, "How to Get Away with Murder," executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, Davis shared: "I have gotten so many wonderful film roles, but I’ve gotten even more film roles where I haven’t been the show. It’s like I’ve been invited to a really fabulous party only to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show.” 

She continued on to say that it has been a struggle to get more out of the film roles she has played: “I spent too much time in my career just trying to force writers to write for me in a way that was bold."

And then she personally thanked Pete Norwalk, the creator of her new ABC show she stars in, “for giving (me) a role that allowed (me) to be alternately commanding, personally messy and sexual.”

What Davis said is probably true as well for Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard and Halle Berry, who currently stars in the new CBS series "Extant." 

So is television the preferred and most likely venue for black actresses today? And what would it take for black actresses to start seeing more interesting and complex roles in feature films? More black female filmmakers writing and directing their own projects?

What do you say?

SEE RELATED: Are TV Networks Finally Starting To Realize The Ratings & Profit Potential In Producing Content For Black Women?

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  • troublemaker | July 16, 2014 10:41 PMReply

    I really wouldn't say that TV is giving black women more interesting roles because there's really no track record yet. There are only 3 roles on broadcast TV that have black female leads. One is a stereotypical bed warmer role and it's too early to tell for Viola and Halle's shows. I think Viola has an edge over Halle and Kerry because she's a more convincing actress in her role than Halle and Kerry in theirs. In the trailer that I have seen of Viola, she's bringing everything and then some and I'm so invested in her character.

    Back to the topic. In order for black women to get better roles in films, black female filmmakers or black filmmakers (I'm not relying on mainstream filmmakers to do it) have to step out their comfort zone and create original stories with unique characters. Black actresses have to play their parts and seek out good black female writers or black writers and help them get financing to bring their vision on screen. Both female writers/filmmakers and black actresses have to work together to bring more black female leads on screen. That's the only way more black female leads will seen.

  • troublemaker | July 17, 2014 9:26 PM

    The definition is Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope.

  • BluTopaz | July 17, 2014 10:36 AM

    "One is a stereotypical bed warmer role"

    Do you negroes even know the definition of that hateful term?

  • Amari Sali | July 16, 2014 9:11 PMReply

    Well look at who Viola has played on film: Black mothers whose child has lead them to great stress. As for TV, outside of How To Get Away With Murder, there was her role on The United States of Tara. In that show she was this odd artist who helped the daughter do cosplay. And while the role certainly wasn't sexy, it did seem like a different role for a Black woman to play.

    But I have to say, as bleak as things are in film, I can't say if there is variety on TV. For while every Black woman seems to be a professional, be it a doctor, nurse, lawyer or etc., it seems like they all share the same stories focused on relationship drama which dominates their stories to the point you sometimes wonder what do they do for a living?

  • CareyCarey | July 16, 2014 1:22 PMReply

    "What would it take for black actresses to start seeing more interesting and complex roles in feature films?"

    When fat meat stops being greasy and/or Hollywood is sold to Oprah & Tyler Perry and/or Rush Limbaugh marries a black woman and/or a plague hits the world leaving everyone color blind... THEN... and only then will we see the fruition of that dream deferred.

    But wait, all goodbye is not gone. A couple of our favorite sons have a way out.

    Stop Crying Racism At Hollywood says Antoine Fuqua.

    "Well, I wouldn't use the term racist, as much as I would say the playing field is not even in Hollywood. But (oh lord, please Antoine, not the big "BUT") but ultimately, you have to put in the work [...] It's very easy to cry racism when you're not qualified to do the work or your work isn't transcending to where you want it to be" ~ Mr. Fuqua

    Oh my, so... dain't racism, y'all just aint qualified... says Antoine (in a Shadow and Act post)

    But wait, a bigger, a richer, a more powerful black man steps in the fray... Tyler Perry has something to say... on Oprah's couch (Taken from a S&A post).

    Oprah: "Why is it that you think Hollywood doesn't see a... ahh... a consistent space for roles for black women?"

    TP: "I don't think its really that as much as I think it is the stories that are being told... and the writers who are telling the stories. You're telling stories from your own experiences and your own lives [...] you write about what you know"

    Hmmm... like I was saying, if the creek don't rise and fat meat...

  • jaebanree | July 16, 2014 10:58 AMReply

    your question is actually it's own statement and the only answer to your question, that keeps getting asked, ad nauseam on this site. yet here i am, reading it again and commenting, again. i divest.

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