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Viola Davis Creates Production Company w/ Period Piece On Black Homesteaders + New HBO Deal Project

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act August 4, 2011 at 7:22AM

Just read a new Times magazine profile of Viola Davis in anticipation of the release of The Help, which she stars in. But don't worry, while the article laments Ms Davis' *unfair* status in the industry, having to play supporting BBF or downtrodden roles more often than not (she took the minister role in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail partly because she'd gone 7 months without getting any other work at the time), I'm not going to talk about The Help (again).
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Just read a new Times magazine profile of Viola Davis in anticipation of the release of The Help, which she stars in. But don't worry, while the article laments Ms Davis' *unfair* status in the industry, having to play supporting BBF or downtrodden roles more often than not (she took the minister role in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail partly because she'd gone 7 months without getting any other work at the time), I'm not going to talk about The Help (again).

Instead, what I'm usually most interested in when I read these profiles is whether there are any revelations of what new projects the person being profiled is working on - in this case, Viola Davis.

So, I'll draw your attention to this paragraph from the latter half of the piece:

Davis and Tennon have started a production company to try to expand the options for black actors, focusing first on a period piece about African-American homesteaders. She also has an HBO development deal for a program about a headmaster at a San Francisco private school. "This character does bad things for all the right reasons," says producer Margaret Nagle. "When I told Viola that, she was like, 'I'm there.' Another actor would say, 'It's really important to me that she be likable.'"

By the way, Tennon is Julius Tennon, her husband.

So, what do we have here? Well, glad to see that she's decided to go into producing work for herself and other black actors, starting with this period piece about African American homesteaders (as an aside, whenever I hear "African American" and "homesteader" in the same sentence, I almost always immediately think of Oscar Micheaux); and this development deal she has with HBO I knew absolutely nothing about... unless I'm just forgetting; but the project about the headmaster "who does bad things for all the right reasons" definitely has my curiosity. The fact that the character she'll play isn't "likable" as the producer of the project suggests, speaks to a previous post from Sergio about Viola excelling in a role as a greedy killer in an episode of Law & Order: CI. And as I hinted at in a previous post, after seeing The Help, I'm ready for her to play some bad-ass, unhinged, edgy character, instead of being caged up in these roles that I think limit what she's really capable of being, which, as the Times magazine profile notes, a leading lady.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about these ideas and projects. I hope to be able to interview her before The Help opens, and if I get my shot, you can bet that I'll be asking her to elaborate.

I know I said I wouldn't talk about The Help, but one interesting factoid from the profile that I shook my head at was this part:

Yet Davis is a leading actress stuck in supporting roles: onscreen, she keeps playing intense, downtrodden, decidedly unsexy characters. She gained weight for both Doubt and The Help and didn't spend much time in makeup. In real life, she works out six days a week in her garage with her college-linebacker-turned-actor husband Julius Tennon. "I wondered how they were going to make her look plump and matronly, because her body is rock hard," says Stockett...

Well damnit, can she be allowed to actually show off that rock-hard body on screen for once? I'm not saying she has to be naked, but enough with the "downtrodden, decidedly unsexy characters."

This article is related to: casting, Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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