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Watch This Must-See Debate Between Tavis Smiley, Viola Davis + Octavia Spencer About "The Help"

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by Cynthia Reid
February 10, 2012 12:32 PM
97 Comments
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If you're like me, you're probably ready to move on from all the controversy surrounding The Help but here's a spirited debate between Tavis Smiley, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer that's a must-see!

With a tag-team style, the ladies tackle all the questions and never-ending conflict about the film.

Watch Actresses Viola Davis & Octavia Spencer on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

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More: Watch Now, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis

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97 Comments

  • hg | August 1, 2012 8:54 PMReply

    its two things.. Distribution and ticket cost, sales. But the forgiveness things in my mind we are some of the most forgiving people. Tavis is right.

  • sinomdavis | June 8, 2012 12:35 PMReply

    dvnm

  • sheila | April 6, 2012 11:38 PMReply

    Can someone help me out please I wanna watch a movie just like the help..any suggestions please

  • Greg Thrasher | February 28, 2012 1:07 PMReply

    I enjoyed the banter. I admire Tavis for not willing to dismiss the issues of films like THE HELP and the role of Black actors. I am tired of Black actors playing the "employment guilt card" which Viola played . I also tire of others making excuses for the lousy scripts as still being progressive and door openers. I will always reject margainal efforts and excuses even those offered up by Black actors and creative people.

  • Cyber1 | February 26, 2012 3:01 PMReply

    Black movie goers should start supporting their own, Independent filmmakers like Dwayne Buckle and others who write, produce and distribute their own films that include other facets of the black cultural experience, not just relying on tyler Perry-esce scenarios as a benchmark of black culture.
    Filmmakers like Buckle often go unnoticed and unsupported because they operate outside of the Hollywood mainstream, coincidentally this is the only way we can control ownership of our history culture and future.

  • anon | February 25, 2012 5:13 PMReply

    @jug regarding the idris elba's praise for luther the character was not written for a black man it wasn't race specific in fact the role is very similar to another dysfunctional detective called cracker it was a bristish tv show that aired in the 90's and was played by a fat white man called Robbie Coltrane -the roles are almost identical! They also made a u.s version if im not mistaken.
    Even if this role WAS a stereotype the way idris plays it is with depth and complexity no way could you compare his sophisticated portrayl of a established and high powered detective to the roles these two ladies played which is a centuries old racist ideal of dark skinned black women-you are clutching at straws when you try to compare the two when the ONLY lead role a black women gets in mainstream film for 2 DECADES is a dumpy maid i think that speaks VOLUMES don't you?

  • Don | February 24, 2012 12:52 PMReply

    Tavis can be such a douche nozzle!

  • onyx | February 21, 2012 8:35 PMReply

    Thanks for this link. The book was a travesty. Kathryn Stockett actually said in three audio interviews the Medgar Evers had been BLUDGEONED in his front yard. Barnes and Noble still has the audio up. The book also has Skeeter mentioning that Evers was bludgeoned, in the hard copy of the book and paperback. The ebook has been corrected. Davis was quoted as saying she doesn't read the descriptions of black characters in books. I can see why, especially since the book never talks about the beauty in the black culture. The errors were so bad I started a blog in June of 2010 on wordpress to refute what was in the novel. A Critical Review of The Help.

  • Onyx | February 21, 2012 8:37 PM

    Medgar Evers error is on Pg 277 in the hard copy of the novel.

  • ? | February 17, 2012 1:37 PMReply

    She pooed in a pie... wassup with that?

  • Mariavah | February 17, 2012 2:02 AMReply

    A friend of mine told me when I said I was tired of all the "white boy coming-of-age-stories" and wanted to see some "Black girl coming of-age-stories". He said, simply, "Then you need to write them." I will never for get that, because it was the truth.

    The fact is that African Americans have not historically encouraged our young people to be anything other than performers when it comes to the arts. But if we do not also cultivate within our community writers, directors, cinematographers, composers and designers, we limit the opportunities for AA actors. Writers write from experience, from their point of view. If we want the world to see things from our point of view, we have to show them. We can't whine because they don't do it for us.

  • Barbara | February 14, 2012 9:40 PMReply

    One Oscar winning fat Black maid in "Gone With The Wind" 50 years ago. Now another Oscar nominated fat Black maid. Fifty years from now, we'll have another fat Oscar nominated Black maid. As a Black woman, I'm so sick of these White people reminiscing about those "good old days" in Mississippi/Dixie.

    It's time to add "Step N Fetch" so that Black men too can be represented, eeh??

    I agree with Tavis.

  • Don | February 24, 2012 12:53 PM

    Then it is time to write about it!

  • Miles Ellison | February 15, 2012 10:03 PM

    Tyler Perry has that covered.

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/tbs-orders-35-new-episodes-of-tyler-perrys-for-better-or-worse-the-1-show-on-tv-among-black-adults

  • LORRIE | February 13, 2012 7:30 PMReply

    unintentionally (as a result of this new-ish, divisive term) Octavia said that African American artists were hobbled by being required to only play heroes and paragons of virtue....BECAUSE BLACK ARTISTS who come from Europe are able (like white artists from ANY country) to portray the FULL gamut of humanity (including homosexual romantic relationships) without the straight jackets imposed on (or self imposed on) african AMERICAN artists (usually from religious lockstep mindsets that threaten them with repercussions if they step outside the "boundaries". I CELEBRATE AND THANK VIOLA & OCTAVIA. if only all BLACK American artists could take back their own freedom to create nuanced truth.

  • BONDGIRL | February 13, 2012 2:28 PMReply

    I can't believe people are still arguing about this damn film. I'm with Denzel...GET OVER IT. Octavia's going to win the Oscar, so settle your stomachs with some Metamucil RIGHT NOW!

  • Jug | February 13, 2012 7:40 PM

    LMBAO An' dare it 'tis! LOL

  • tiffany | February 12, 2012 11:47 AMReply

    viola is a very smart articulate and beautiful woman and I am proud to be a black woman

  • Eileen | February 11, 2012 8:47 PMReply

    Love these forward thinking ladies.....come on Travis, get with the program. Your chip-on-the- shoulder, is hindering the very progress of the people you are hoping to help!

  • LAC | February 17, 2012 2:26 PM

    sick of ole Tavis Smiley. Maybe he should get back on the "Oh lawdy!Ders poverty in america now!" bus with comb ya hair Cornel and get off my TV.

  • Be free | February 11, 2012 6:57 PMReply

    @ jmac
    Speak to power! Tell the truth and same the devil. Thank you

  • Rane | February 11, 2012 6:33 PMReply

    The arguments presented here smack of the same old shit some Black folks have endured for far too long from other Black folks: Damned if you do, damned if you don't. I think that this is the mentality that Viola Davis was furious about. Two Black women of exceptional talent have been nominated for an Oscar for excellent work and their efforts meet with criticism because they were playing maids- yet I'm certain if they were portraying macroeconomists or classical musicians they'd likely be accused of being disingenuous and scolded for "talking white". Just as men rarely consider when choosing a profession, how it might impact on their children and women ALWAYS have to, Black actors have the double fuck of hardly getting any work and being chastised by a segment of the community for accepting a role pious, non movie making folks disapprove of. As Ms Davis mentioned, Anthony Hopkins and Charlize Theron won an oscars for their roles as a serial killers... did they have to endure guff from their compatriots for their performances? Mr Smiley's desire for balance is a noble one but as long as Black folks are making Tyler Perry, Lil Wayne et al rich, don't expect change in that area. One thing to consider here; if the film Precious was written or directed by a white person, all the folks complaining about The Help would be screaming their heads off for such an ugly, relentlessly depressing depiction of a Black family. Criticism is cheap... clarity is priceless.

  • Mariavah | February 17, 2012 1:40 AM

    Thank you. I was going to say more, but you said it all!

  • Anita | February 14, 2012 2:11 PM

    Amen!

  • Dr Cook | February 11, 2012 5:52 PMReply

    The references to Anthony Hopkins and Charlise Theron is facetious. Nobody is going to treat white men or women as serial killers because of those movies. On the other hand some white people may view blacks as only worthy of service jobs. And the crap about limiting the black artist is ridiculous and inane. There are millions of blacks who are not maids and not black thugs!!!

  • jmac | February 11, 2012 5:32 PMReply

    Finally made it through the responses - Jug's in particular pheww. I have to compare and contrast this interview with the Nightline post and Tanya Steele's interview [listen to it if you haven't already] and declare BS on Viola and Octavia's positions. I understand they want to play roles that are interesting and there aren't many roles for black women - particularly those who look like Viola and Octavia but if they (or any black actor) was serious about choosing interesting, multifacted, truth-telling roles why aren't they creating those opportunities themselves by seeking out talented black screenwriters, directors, and producers and just do it? I doubt every damn black screenwriter out there is making a ghetto hood crack addict mother movie. I bet the stories being created by NYU, USC, etc... students and graduates are a heck of a lot more diverse than anything you'd find in film today and probably of a higher quality but they're nobodies. In order to be somebodies, they may need to break down and write some derivative crap, get some white man's stamp of approval of it (cause apparently nobody black no matter how prominent is afraid to take a chance on a great, quality black script unless it is validated by someone outside the black community) and maybe just maybe it'll reach Viola's agent. End result - unoriginal, low quality scripts sent to a woman who'll play an unoriginal maid but not an unoriginal crack addict mother. Well, we all have standards. Why not skip the middle men? Source material is out there. Black people have been writing about their experiences in this country since we got here. We've got talented people writing unique scripts right now. There's no excuse unless what you really want is to be a (temporary) big screen star that white people will want to hire again and again for similar roles. The problem isn't the lack of opportunity in Hollywood or lack of quality with black written scripts, it's the lack of collaboration [and courage] among black entertainers.

  • Jug | February 12, 2012 4:41 PM

    But you are SOOO right about young black writers at NYU, Howard, USC,etc. These dudes out here will grab from their alma maters or folks that are like them in a minute-talent or no talent. We should be doing the same. I'm hoping now that Viola is in a position to get projects developed, even financed, good stuff will happen. I plan to be optimistic :-)

  • Jug | February 12, 2012 4:19 PM

    You're right. But the issue is that everything you're saying makes sense & works in the abstract. There is no actor-anywhere-that wants to act AND have another job. They only want to act for a living, just like a lawyer doesn't want to have to get another job to be able to practice law. I used to live in DC & I know many attorneys who had to because the law office they worked for didn't pay enough-and they were miserable. Same thing with the actors I knew in DC & the ones here in L.A. Why does it have to be either live like a pauper or make money doing crap? Why the extremes? So it's not just about "do anything to eat" but it is about being able to support yourself soley from what you're trained to do. Don't know too many police academy grads who have to moonlight as school teachers to make ends meet. And Viola's role wasn't a bad role at all. Just happened to be a maid. No worse of a role than angry black man/ borderline psychopath Luther, for which Idris is being loved-both here on S&A & abroad. But somehow I guess people "see it different"...

  • Jmac | February 12, 2012 3:53 PM

    I definitely get that side of it and the "you gotta eat" argument. When I used the term "black entertainers," I'm not just singling out the actors but all black people in the entertainment industry who do have the bucks and the production company and the power to make good movies - not just the low budget, low quality films. Hate to call out Oprah but she wants to make feature films out of documentaries.... What's up with that? Tyler Perry would get more respect if he lent some time, money, use of equipment to other artists (w/o putting his thumb in their pies) - it'd still be a Tyler Perry production but nope it has to be all about him all the time. As I've said before I couldn't be an actor and put my life and fate into people's hands who don't give a damn about me and my career. If I were, I'd definitely get a second job: let my law degree keep the lights on but act on the side when the role is worth it. If I loved acting -real acting, it wouldn't be a sacrifice for me to live my life like that. I certainly wouldn't waste my time complaining about all the crap roles I am offered or how white Hollywood doesn't want me. In the end, it's still a choice. If these ladies prefer mainstream attention than good roles (that may give them the mainstream attention they seek) and don't want to put in the effort to help create those roles, they should just sit down and be quiet.

  • Jug | February 11, 2012 8:06 PM

    JMac, oddly enough you & I are in agreement here. About the lack of collaboration & courage among black entertainers. That is ground zero explaining the type of stuff that eventually does filter through the oodles of buffers to get to the talent. It's a crap role in a big movie, or a good role in an okay movie but reinforces certain classically held "beliefs", but it bolsters your career. What do you do? C'mon, that JERRY MAGUIRE stuff is just in the movies. As I said before, I've read great scripts by black screenwriters. Some crap, some good & some DAMN good ones. But who is producing it? And since this is a business, how much are they paying? What kind of B.O. share can it expect & is it expected to break even? Remember the film that S&A spotlighted that Harry Lennix did, where he was a stand-up comic? He was really great in the trailer, but since it was low budget & it was "Harry Lennix", folks bagged on him. Said it looked like crap. they couldn't get past the "no budget" of it all. But he said he did it because he wasn't getting "interesting" roles that "challenged" him. Wonder why more Big Name Black Stars don't do smaller, better Black films? They want to. Trust me. There are many more moving parts to a movie & even getting it made-especially minority films. We get so focused on guerrilla fiilmmaking, going around Hollywood & getting our own stuff together, that I NEVER hear anyone on here talk about payments. No one talks about livelihoods, living wages, pay systems. How are we gonna pay these people? Cuz for real, a lot of these movies, these Black films, are done on SAG Ultra Low Budget contracts? Know what that pays? $100 a day. A DAY. And sometimes it only takes a few weeks to make a film of that size, maybe three. And you may not work each day. So tell me again-how many of the folks on here would work for $100 a day, for upwards of 12-15 hours doing all kinds of crazy shit that some dude asks you to do-for a movie that may or MAY NOT get seen? I'm sorry but that is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Case in point: THE LAST FALL. Remember Matt Cherry's blog about it? About casting, how he was so happy that he got the lead he wanted but the concern the talent's agent had about doing the gig? But Lance did it because he said he dug what Matt was trying to do. Basically, he hooked Matt up, because it wasn't for the money. It did give him a lead credit, but as it stands right now it's now a severe career boost. If it happens, cool but that is not from the onset. A partner at Mgmt 360, one of the three top Mgmt firms in Hollywood, told me "A lot of shit gets made in Hollywood. If you're going to do shit, make sure it furthers your career". Not saying LAST FALL is shit, far from it. But I am saying BELIEVE those conversations are being had by talent, their reps & producers. Would you just give someone a $100 as a "favor"? Without them being your close friend? Some explanation why? What you can expect in return? I get the politics & social agenda of most people, but this is people's real lives & it is a business. We need to realistically take that into account when we're blasting on these stars, the roles they choose & when they defend them. I just ask-would it be different if we were in their position?

  • Miles Ellison | February 11, 2012 5:26 PMReply

    I'm no fan of Tavis Smiley, but he has a point here. Why is the honest, warts-and-all depiction of black people limited to a few well-worn stereotypes?

  • Befree1619 | February 11, 2012 6:53 PM

    Speak to power! Tell the truth and same the devil.
    Thank you

  • Said in Los Angeles | February 11, 2012 4:42 PMReply

    I'm an artist, actually I'm a film producer and Black folks mindsets aren't destroying the black artists....Tavis is asking why other roles that Black folks play aren't acknowledged in award season. I'd rather focus on why Black folks in Hollywood won't, not can't, won't produce a 'Chronicles' or 'Bourne Identity'

  • geo | February 12, 2012 3:17 PM

    I agree, Im in Film school at the University of Texas to be a producer and it doesn't make sense to me...as black people we don't have our own twilight series, harry potter, Hunger games, etc..and I KNOW there's an audience for it..I hope things change but if not, that's my goal when I graduate!

  • other song | February 11, 2012 1:03 PMReply

    Honestly, why all this focus on Viola and Octavia? Yes, their performances are part of the problem but the reality is that they have NO power when it comes to greenlighting projects/original material. And they're terrific actresses. I have total love and respect for them. They made the best of a wack situation. Tavis et al should be trying to interview Tate Taylor, execs from Dreamworks, etc. But of course, those people are impossible to reach, impossible to touch and are silently collecting their dough.

  • befree1619 | February 11, 2012 9:25 AMReply

    I am sorry, but Viola and Octavia are being disingenuous. The character Viola played and what came across on screen and vastly different. We did not learn anything about the black maids outside their interaction with the white characters. The Help follows the same white paternalistic narrative as Blindside, Blood Diamond, and Finding Forester etc. I am sorry Viola and Octavia, but some us know this whether they choose to acknowledge it or not.
    This was a Disneyesque delivery of being a black maid in the 1960's. Viola was going to the extreme to make her point. Yes, Viola while your character was not like the 1920's movies when the black maid just stood by the table and never mumbled a word; it surely was not this fully realized character either. I did feel that it was the hundredth movie I've seen where if it wasn't for a noble white person then the black characters would be doomed. I like Viola, but she is conjuring up a hypothetical version of The Help that she thinks might appease black critics.
    Yes, she is an actor and must do what she believes is right. However, I am a consumer I am not obligated to support anything that I feel fundamentally pigeonholed the black experience. Viola said that Black thought is holding black artist. Really, Viola? You have to be kidding. Nobody wants black actors to only play “perfect characters”. We want well developed characters; especially black women characters. To suggest the alternative is to play the SAME tried black maid archetype is false logic.
    Well it could be easily argued her continuation of playing these types of roles does more to keep these undeveloped black characters that only exist as an appendage of white paternalism alive. I am not even going to discuss what Octavia said because I think she was still reading from a script. I will quote a line from Minnie that summed up The Help for me.
    Minnie : “Frying chicken just makes me feel better about life. I just love me some fried chicken”.

  • BluTopaz | February 11, 2012 12:13 PM

    @ Kelly-"I believe their performances 'told the truth' about black women during that time" Speak for the Black women in YOUR family. My grandmother was a maid in the deep South, and did not survive by 'loving her enemies'-smdh. Wtf is wrong with some of you handkerchief head Black people?

  • Kelly | February 11, 2012 11:04 AM

    I must say that I disagree with your position, and offer my own favorite quote from the film: "God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free. "

    I see the movie as telling the truth about women, like my grandmother, who had a quiet strength and resilience. The characters Viola and Octavia played were the heroines of this film and I believe their performances 'told the truth' about black women during that time.

  • a reader | February 11, 2012 4:08 AMReply

    DAYUM! Viola Davis is fionne! ***goes back to listen to the video instead of just watching Viola***

  • other song | February 11, 2012 1:57 AMReply

    "He who brings the gold makes the rules." Rule 2: never blame the man who brings the gold. If anything, blame the peasants (the ticket-buying public) and the external faces (the actors). But don't EVER question the decision makers. And certainly don't mention them by name - they sign your paychecks.

  • Concerned Black Cinephile | February 11, 2012 12:56 AMReply

    These two women are amazing.

  • a former Buffalo Soldier | February 11, 2012 12:11 AMReply

    Like I've said before, "they only way our true stories will be told, is we tell it ourselves." The same applies to movies being made from them, without being trivialized.. Like carrying a 20 pound marble head in a battle scene.

  • SMH! | February 10, 2012 11:32 PMReply

    Ummm @19:30 Viola, if you have a whole bunch of artists in your house with scripts. And the roles they have for you are urban unattractive mothers with no sense of dynamic to them, maybe you should kick them out and let the REAL ARTIST IN! Just because you haven't met them, it does not mean mean they do not exist. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

  • Robert Galloway, M.D. | February 10, 2012 8:51 PMReply

    I viewed the discussion with Tavis and Viola Davis. In my opinion, Viola was correct. She's a superior actress and deserves the award. Tavis was also commentting on the "Red Tails" movie which I also saw. The documetation was long overdue because of it's importance in American History. But the type-casting was somewhat shallow with too many stereotypes which underminded the worth of that movie. "Red Tails" should be re-done by a "heavy-weight" like Spike Lee who would avoid all the unnecessary stereotyping and Viola Davis should get the highest award because she's the best.

  • a reader | February 11, 2012 4:11 AM

    '"Red Tails" should be re-done by a "heavy-weight" like Spike Lee who would avoid all the unnecessary stereotyping.'

    Uhh. I don't think so. See Exhibit A: Private First Class Sam Train, "Miracle at St. Anna"

  • BluTopaz | February 10, 2012 8:42 PMReply

    Viola is full of it, and Octavia knows she is unattractive and fat. This is the best role she will get-didn't she play the prostitute in Bad Santa who bent over for Billy Bob, so a maid is a step up for her. I was very impressed with Tavis' approach and rebuttal.

  • Nadine | February 11, 2012 4:52 PM

    Oh...Bluto's not the one being ignorant... Octavia made her choices, and they've been despicable choices. If you are aware of the issues at hand, you would also know Octavia very well for she has been one of the Hollywood/Madison Ave "mammy/jezebel" darlings for years -- a nightmare -- so I find it poetic that she be nominated for the ultimate Hollywood prize.

  • BluTopaz | February 11, 2012 4:15 PM

    So is your mom, who probably looks like Octavia

  • flyonthewall | February 11, 2012 2:43 PM

    ignorant dick.

  • Jug | February 10, 2012 8:28 PMReply

    And if you're bored enough to read my ramblings, please forgive my quotation marks & apostrophes coming out all screwey...damn computer LOL

  • Nicole | February 10, 2012 8:21 PMReply

    I agree with Viola and Octavia and I think at some point they should stop explaining themselves. How many times can you explain your decision to someone who is convinced that you made the wrong decision?

  • Nadine | February 10, 2012 8:17 PMReply

    No, we don't always want to be seen as noble, that is tiring as well, but Viola, Black women simply want to be acknowledged as being "worthy" of love. Love from family, love from a partner, love from an acceptance of our humanity, love expressed through honoring our femininity, "love" which is an underlying theme in every script, be it feature film or commercial, that is used to LIFT UP non-Black womanhood, but is also turned on its head, as a theme, for Black women to express how UNWORTHY they are of love. It's epidemic and is killing the Black community, actually...that's kind of why it's important.

  • Nadine | February 11, 2012 4:45 PM

    @Kelly, first regarding "love", I was too lazy last night to make a final point. The only time Black women are allowed "love" is when they, Black women, have sacrificed their ENTIRE BEING for the life of someone more worthy... a son, the family for whom she works, the children in her neighborhood, her church...etc... disgusting. ALSO, I am the last one to say that the REAL women who inspired these "THE HELP"-like stories are not daggone heroes, for real... I am very clear on the history, the thing is, these movies are not... there is so much more depth to these characters and their stories... I WOULD LOVE TO SEE A MOVIE ABOUT A BLACK MAID TURNED UPSIDE DOWN ON ITS HEAD. No exhalations or safety nets, a.k.a White heroines/heroes or saviors... The foot-draggin' sadness, mercy... you think all of these women FOR GENERATIONS survived by draggin' their feet and not finding joy in every moment whilst holding fast to their STRONG support systems? Was there really no sub-culture? I mean this stuff is so deep that, IF VIOLA wants to "execute", she can "execute" herself right into the multifaceted maid role she so desires. Yo, I CHALLENGE SHADOW AND ACT TO CALL FOR FILMS RECLAIMING THE BLACK MAID. Mammy was big, but we NEVER SAW HER EAT.... WHAT UP WITH THAT?!?!? RECLAIM IT SO BEAUTIFULLY THAT HOLLYWOOD WOULD SHUDDER AT THE COMPARISON OF ANYTHING ELSE THEY WOULD WANT TO PULL OUT OF THEIR ARSES. @Kelly, I don't know how old you are, but I grew up with my fair share of modern day "black maid" movies and their characters were way more researched and thoughtful than these.

  • Kelly | February 11, 2012 10:44 AM

    I can't believe your take on this movie is that these maids showed they were 'unworthy of love'. In fact, they made the stories of our mothers and grandmothers quite noble. They stood up for what is right, showed a noble and quiet strength. They were the 'good guys' despite the irony of being in a poorer social class. I am quite proud of their stories, the performance of these two actresses, and the movie.

  • Nadine | February 10, 2012 8:24 PM

    ...hence the significance of the absence of Black women in Red Tails. It's just understood that Black women are not worthy of "love from a partner"... Precious and Blind Side, not worthy of "love from or of family"...list goes on... the State Farm commercial, girlfriend not worthy of the "love from a partner"... it's pretty easy to see through this lens how things play out in the media, so... yeah....

  • Jug | February 10, 2012 8:17 PMReply

    *DISCLAIMER*: I don't eff with Tavis Smiley. Used to dig him, but then found out he's a huckster like everyone else.
    **DOUBLE DISCLAIMER**-This bout to be a LONG one, straight hijack LOL
    ***TRIPLE DISCLAIMER***-This is another subject Black folks will be split on. Period. *Whew* Okay, now that I'm done with that. Why is it shocking what Viola said? One of, if not THE biggest issue, is that Black people always see everything through the prism of race. And before people start in with ‘but we’re black’-BULLSHIT! Yes you can see things just as a person. It ain’t that hard. Speak to the spirit that God gave you & it's easy. Otherwise, you're speaking & acting as an Agendist-like every other white person who's so-called "holdin' you down". Folks can’t see peoples actions, faults or even their virtues for failing of the color of their skin. Viola is a PERSON. She is an ACTOR. She wants to play the roles that interest her, speak to her & make her feel creative. Truth is, there isn't a whole lot of stuff written for or by actors of color that are super interesting. Why is that? Because as she said "90% of the roles I get are crackheads" because we are just as or if not more so stereotypical of our own than anyone else. Notice the same BLACK actors playing the exact same BLACK roles in every BLACK film? Not a coincidence, not only do we see ourselves a certain way and do we want it to stay a certain way, but we also want to make MONEY & if that mold has Viola as the crackhead, then damnit she's gonna be the crackhead! But back to the scripts...Sorry, there really aren't. Not at least getting produced. And the stuff that is even in the slightest bit interesting that gets made ain't paying enough. So you have to be doing something else on the side (theatre or, God Willing, a TV show) to be able to say "Oh I made this great, small film". Great, whoopee…Y'all forget, this is PEOPLE'S LIVELIHOODS, not just your entertainment on date night or something heartwarming to show your kids for Black History Month. These people go to set, like other folks work at the Post Office, a law firm, the factory etc. Viola said it-"Image, Message & Execution". IT. IS. TRUE. Get mad all you want, but look at the Image Awards. IMAGE Awards?!...that says it all. Not the quality of the Art or what it says to our Human discourse. But how we LOOK. Yeah Yeah, does it send a positive message, that’s cool and all but as I said before, how many of you would be happy with a good looking, well spoken but DUMB, WEAK, BLACK President? Hmm makes you wonder…. (Cont'd)

  • Jug | February 10, 2012 8:16 PMReply

    (Cont'd) Now I will concede, Tavis has a point with the imbalance in the industry. It’s true, people give kudos to work when they feel they "believe it", what they really mean is, “I see you a certain way & you fulfilled that idea.” A very idiotic & ignorant way of thinking indeed, but you can’t change that. And when you go the other extreme, away from honesty of the work even in the ugliest of situations, you get product that is not only not honest, but also insulting to the intelligence (TP, Eli Roth’s films and from what I understand much of RED TAILS was quite ridiculous). Now, many folks are okay with that, and that’s cool too. Everybody has their druthers, but to say as a BLACK Artist, that’s what you HAVE to do is bullshit. It’s bullshit & it’s insulting to the person of color who’s learning about being a person-you just told them they can’t be because of political, social or societal panderings. WTF?! Think about the years where there was a Black President portrayed on screen (James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Dennis Haysbert) and people left it starkly in the land of "fiction" even “sci-fi” meaning “Yeah, right!” Because people didn't believe, wouldn't believe it would happen (I gotta admit, I honestly thought there would be a female president before a black president in my lifetime & I’m mid-30s). It’s that sort of insulting logic that makes Black people more than pissed but is perplexing when they do the same sort of thing to their own artist. “You can’t do this or that because it makes us look bad. It’s not who we are.” Again, Bullshit. I know MANY a Black maid LOL but back to that idea of Balance. I agree Tavis, Denzel winning for TRAINING DAY was a boobie prize because THE HURRICANE & MALCOLM X blew that performance out of the water. While Alonzo was a stunning performance, primarily because as such a disgusting and despicable person, we actually liked him...I wanted to hang with him, women wanted to fuck him...that's tough to do; his work as Malcolm & Rueben Carter were transcendent. Same thing with Hannibal Lecter. Tavis, again, is right in that context, there is no BALANCE when it comes to what is considered “elite” or “award worthy” BUT we don’t do ourselves any favors by nominating Halle Berry for showing her tits in SWORDFISH. GO Halle, Best Actress all the way hon!  And after all that, what Octavia said, speaks to what Anthony Mackie said, what Rockmund Dunbar said, what Morgan Freeman said-that we need to get OUR shit together. Period. And at least on this site, The Root and other blogs catering to Black audiences, these cats were taken to the woodshed! People hated them for saying "what the hell, you’re slippin’, get it together, do it yourself". But we only want to see US doing it OURSELVES if it’s CERTAIN kinds of BLACK content-just as Viola alluded to. But as Octavia noted people are not pooling their resources-and why is that? Hmm, well it’s probably because they are not sure of or flat out afraid of A) working together with other Black industry insiders because it “drops the esteem” of their product & B) the project won’t make money-the latter probably being the most important! As an actor I agree with Viola, I want to play Nino Brown, as long as I get to play Jack Sparrow or John McClaine. Complexity. Interesting. Challenging. The “Black” part takes care of itself just by nature of casting me. What’s this extra “Black Sauce” I gotta lay on top of it? Are we that fucking stupid that we don’t get it when we see the damn show?! We’re always checking to see just how “black” the show is or the characters are or the actor is (all this bullshit about these actors married to white women, GTFOH are you dating him? Did you have a shot?! Whatever man?! Stupid things to be sooo upset about & totally irrelevant in “the struggle” whatever the fuck that is). Ridiculous…

  • Jug | February 10, 2012 8:15 PMReply

    (Con'td)

    But when it comes to being awarded, that is more about politics & personal prejudices than anything else. And that is saying something about a business that is extremely selfish, vain & self-absorbed. So if you're gonna bitch about the awards, cool-get it straight-Attack the industry, attack the decision makers. But to attack Viola or Octavia (when Viola CONSISTENTLY gives great performances) for them playing "maids" is ridiculous as Viola has played Homeland Security chiefs, Police Detectives, NASA ship Captains as well as crack mothers & working mothers & I'm sure Octavia has the skill set to do the same & both can do MORE. I wonder how many of the people “bitching” have seen Viola in SOLARIS with Clooney? Or EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE? Or knew she was co-lead of an ABC pilot, saw her in SYRIANA AGAIN with Clooney? Instead of “oh she played that crack mother in OUT OF SIGHT & a poor strugglin’ black momma in DOUBT!” In defense of Black content creators, they are PEOPLE too, and just like everybody else, we go off what we SEE first & not really look past the visual to see or even investigate the skill set. I could go on & on about this (this is waay too much for a Friday afternoon), but I’ll leave with this. If we want to be taken seriously as a creative force in the industry, the way we are in Music AND Dance, we REAALLY need to get our heads out of our collective asses and start being honest about shit. Or else we’ll have a lot of money, but everyone will be laughing at us behind our backs..& maybe even to our faces.

  • Nadine | April 24, 2012 8:11 PM

    ...sorry I never saw this reply JUG. It's all late now.

  • Jug | February 14, 2012 7:28 PM

    Okay Nadine, back where we should be LOL Yes, I wrote that because I don't know just how many articles on S&A you read ( I read almost all of them & the comments). Or on The Root, HuffPo or anything even remotely dealing with Black People in the world today but if it has any inkling of relationship to the story-there will be an issue with "just how Black is Black". David Oyelowo is married to a white woman. So is Nate Parker. Folks said, & I quote, "I will not watch (sequel to BEST MAN) because they'e all married to white women). Does that make their performances any less valid. No, but for some it does. I get the connection of your "core audience" & catering to them. But how does their REAL life romance influence that? Shouldn't it be if they only do interracial stuff "on-screen"? Maybe I'm just simple like that. David is supposed to play MLK, will you & other people hate his performance-no matter how much justice he does to Martin-because his wife is white? Howard Rollins used to dress up in drag, does that make his masterful performance in A SOLDIER'S STORY & IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT any less great? I'm serious, when I use these examples I don't pull them out of my ass. Email Tambay, email Cynthia, Sergio any of them. Ask if on this blog, in the comments section, is there a serious derision when it comes to Black Male actors in certain roles but in their real life married to white women. I'm engaged to a Black Women so I get the anger. I get the vitriol. Most of all I get the disappointment-but if it isn't you or someone you're involved with..ultimately it has no bearing on what you're doing. Or more to the point-Let it go. People are gonna do what they're gonna do. Long as they're not destroying someone's life-like say Sandusky-then what does that have to do with their performance? Now, I must admit I can't go support Roman Polanski. I can't. He is a convicted child rapist who fled custody but is supported by many of his industry compatriots. "Aww, it was a long time ago, it ain't that bad"...until it's their little girl. For me, that is the line and a super extreme case. But if somebody has a happy, healthy relationship with a white woman, or a man for that matter, making society a better place day in & day out-I could give a care. Yeah, that sort of "issue" is a bit ridiculous to me. Now, for whatever reason you're upset with Viola & Octavia, I say it again-If someone told you you could ONLY behave a certain way, work a certain job, get paid a certain amount, live in certain places because you were Black you would be Livid. (Cont'd)

  • Jug | February 14, 2012 7:26 PM

    (Cont'd)
    NOW, for the sake of argument, if that person was as dark as you? You'd be like WTF?!? And that is the classic House Nigga/Field Nigga debate. It's a stupid one to be sure, but nonetheless palpable & explosive. As I said, Viola obviously thought it would be different-just like Spike thought he made INSIDE MAN & Hollywood would just part wide for him. Nope! But according to what she has said, & I implore everyone to LISTEN to what she said, not what you heard, & you'd hear her say the scripts SHE gets from Black writers-Not ones she picked up at the prod office, or her friend Denzel gets but the ones SHE gets-are stereotypical & crackheadish. And THAT goes A LONG way to talk about how WE see HER. I also stated that, like Taraji, when that stuff happens you gotta get on your Reps, because they have agendas to "do right by you" and much of the time that is associated with money. They're not going to say "You're not as pretty as Beyonce. So you play the avg sister". No, they're gonna play to you A) Vanity & B) your strengths-which in her case is her talent. As I said on the Beharie post, people were shocked (myself included) at just how stunning the pics are from that photoshoot. But no one has ever looked at Viola like that in terms of roles. At least for the camera. They see it in her everyday life, on the Red Carpet. And that is because Film is a VISUAL medium. Stage is an AUDITORY medium. You go to HEAR actors do their thing. That, like singing, is a skill of such control by the performer, what they do from the Inside Out. Film..it's so much about how you LOOK, from the Outside In. And unfortunately, there is only so much you can do about your height, your weight, your sex & most importantly, your SKIN COLOR. Once there are severe attempts to change to "LOOK" the part, after a while it's either good or just ridiculous. If Viola started putting on a bunch of fake noses & lightening her skin, we'd say "WTH?! Why not just go get Paula Patton?" Think I'm kidding, Ryan Gosling, the super "It" boy right now gained 30 lbs to star in THE LOVELY BONES. He needed to be "older". He showed up to set, 30 lbs fatter & he AND Peter Jackson were like "Uhhh no." He was no longer "right" & they ended up going with Mark Walhberg (hired him the night before). Probably lost A LOT on the skill level, but Mark looked the part & was decent. I say that to illustrate that when Viola gets scripts, according to her, no one is thinking "Oh my god she is beautiful". She will be the Whitney Houston/Angela Bassett roles in WAITING TO EXHALE. In terms of acting, She. Would. Kill. It. Her "look"...umm the jury is seriously out. You & I know that to be bull, but Joe Knucklehead who can't think past what's on a postcard can't & is writing it or even worse, putting up the money, is thinking with his penis & wants to hire someone he wants to screw-Enter Beyonce. And sorry, MANY screenplays are written just like that. By writer's of all colors & yes, Black too. Geez I'm like a broken record having to say this mess again LOL Anyway, it is the classic conundrum of typecasting & pigeonholing. But in the this & any subsequent interview all anyone HEARD is "Black Writer's Ain't Shit!" Her comment about Black Artists not being allowed to be Artists-is also true to an extent. I believe in representation. But to what capacity. August Wilson hated THE COSBY SHOW, thought it was white people in blackface, bcuz it wasn't HIS experience of Black people-specifically Black Men. Total crap, wasn't my experience, but August is still by far my favorite playwright. Me, I wouldn't run from a role of a drug dealer because there are Black drug dealers. Known some, they were good friends. The trick, as Sam Jackson says, is what humanity you can give to them. Is it written, or do you have to work to bring it out? They still have mothers, a favorite song or tv show. And probably don't eat their vegetables. But if that's ALL you get, because you're Black/Dark Skinned/or not attractive, without even that level of depth-than that is too easy number one & really disheartening & depressing at most. Especially when it comes from those who you'd THINK would not think that way. Oh and as for Black Men, more & more you see Black Women being paired up with White Men on TV (not in Film yet) & nobody cares. You know why? Cuz men still want to sleep with them-even if it's to say his dick is bigger than the white guys. Stupid, but that is true also. No man is saying Halle is "tired" & a "weak ass" cuz she's hasn't been with a Black man since one kicked her ass & another screwed everything in sight while engaged to her. She's still extremely sought after & folks see her stuff-well that's another debate LOL

  • Nadine | February 14, 2012 3:42 PM

    ...@JUG - I was getting through your statements pretty unscathed until, "We’re always checking to see just how “black” the show is or the characters are or the actor is (all this bullshit about these actors married to white women, GTFOH are you dating him? Did you have a shot?! Whatever man?! Stupid things to be sooo upset about & totally irrelevant in “the struggle” whatever the fuck that is). Ridiculous…" ... I can't "f" with that. So like I'm wondering, is it that Black men believe that Black women are MAD 'cause "we" can't have them? Okay...again as a HAPPILY married woman, that topic is sooo much deeper than what you are making it out to be and as I've said many times before (forgive me if I'm being repetitive) it is about the need to "own Black culture" or the aspects of which can be controlled. Pretty standard for the ole U.S. of A. Black men and their sports, music and lust.... Black woman and "their voices" and "self-esteem" - like scavengers Hollywood and Madison Avenue pick at American Black culture until there is nothing left of us but horrid carcasses... c'mon, man... If Hollywood used as many Black women as they do Black men in film and television as they do now while pairing up all these women with non-Black men... Black men would lose their minds, period. All while Black men were only being portrayed as drug dealers and "thugs". Even if you weren't interested in the Black woman actress happily married (without a care in the world) to that non-Black man, on-screen, it wouldn't take Black men 2-seconds to figure out the REAL problem. They would get upset because it would be clear that "defining", "claiming" and "exclusion" was occurring in an attempt to "own"... and it is not about the actor being married to a non-Black woman in real life, where are you seeing those comments? It's about the portrayal on-screen and how that affects a society. That's just the truth.

    Now onto your greater issue, Viola and Octavia attacked Black audiences. That was the problem. Up until this interview I was pretty much a supporter of Viola, still am - but she definitely is in need of a hug and more, (I despise Octavia.... she needs to do penance), but Viola has got it wrong and I understand that she is feeling the weight and pressure of these questions about this role everyday where we, the audience, will talk about it for a couple of minutes and then move on with our days., but Viola has got to step back, know that she is worthy, make no apologies for her being and be analytical about the topic so that there can be a real dialogue that could make like easier for her without clinging to denial...and BTW, everyone is laughing behind "our" backs, believe me... our self-hatred is a joke and an effective tool used so very well in Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

  • Nadine | February 11, 2012 4:20 PM

    @JUG - Woo... I'm going to finish my video editing and sit down and read your thesis. I definitely want to honor what you wrote...

  • Jug | February 10, 2012 8:48 PM

    @Nadine-You mean my "foaming at the mouth" long ass bitch-fest?! LOL I agree with what you're saying about Womanhood. Matter of fact, it's what's sorely lacking in films period, much less Black films. Woman are archetypal, if not stereotypical, to drive home a point. And that can serve a purpose. But instead of creating complex "people" that resonate to all of us, regardless of our race, color, creed etc, we get these "images" that are as flat & lifeless as the screen we're viewing them on. Watching something like that, I'm not learning anything from that, just reaffirming what I already think. And if folks've been paying attention to what Viola has said in other interviews and she quipped quickly here, She doesn't get those roles because people think she's ugly! She's not Halle, or Angela, or Paula. She's dark, you can see her gums when she smiles & she doesn't flaunt her sexuality (btw NONE of all of these things are bullshit reasons). That's one of her biggest issues really, wanting to be taken seriously for her skill, not her cup size. She's like Meryl Streep. Good Looking, can be stunning, but not classically gorgeous in a pinup girl sort of way, but spends most of her time in the work. Seeing them opposite each other in DOUBT was like an acting mirror. And for most actresses, that's asset one, especially in film-especially in America. I almost hate myself for saying this (cuz I know Carey is gonna swoop in & get on my ass) but if she was cast on a British show, Viola would be a love interest because she's is attractive but a STUNNING actress. They still respect that shit over there. So I get it, when she wants to be "beautiful" & be the "romantic lead" & "get the guy" and she thinks "Hey, I'll get a script from Tyler Perry or somebody & they'll hook me up" and then she reads a trite rehash of OUT OF SIGHT, tho not written as well. Or it could be, it doesn't matter. The point is she's like "God Damn, is this how you fucking see me!?" It hurts yo. It'd be different if she was a Sasquatch or looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. But she doesn't. She looks like my Aunts. Octavia looks like the women in my family. And in OUR films, we don't portray that. Not even in TP's films-We get Thandie "Pogo Stick" Newton. I joke, cuz I do like Thandie, but she is super duper thin and not like most women. Not about being Big, but about being real & truthful, not what "sells". But again, as audience members-like Octavia said-the onus starts with us. We're the ones who go to see movies & then get "turned off" when we see someone like Oprah & Danny Glover gettin' it on in BELOVED. Damnit, that's when we scream for the Halle's & the Gabrielle's. *sigh* lemme stop cuz I'm gettin' worked up again LOL Out for the weekend, PEACE!

  • Nadine | February 10, 2012 8:26 PM

    @JUG - I thought I was the only one losing my mind! You trumped me!

  • Nadine | February 10, 2012 7:58 PMReply

    I absolutely lost all respect for Viola; never had respect for Octavia. It is because Black people demand and are critical of our worst representations being most represented that those images are at the forefront of the American media machine or watered down, Viola? What the hell. I get the Black actor in Hollywood needs to work, Viola, but Black people need to live and when they are in a society that finds comfort in the weakness of its most exploited female citizens by turning them into circus "freaks", then we all fail. No, I do not take solace in the fact that Octavia, as well as a number of other nameless mammy caricatures, have gotten more representation on television since 2000 than "normies" when, in the US, being skinny is seen as a virtue. I do not appreciate every negative aspect of WOMANHOOD being placed upon the black woman's shoulders... traits seen in ALL WOMEN translated only through the spectacle of the Black woman on television. You've got to be kidding me and I have to say, the HELP was the most watered down crap, so not worthy... the experience of Black maids as seen through the lens of a well-meaning White woman? See Octavia, that was the only thing somewhat different about this movie (that I would characterize as a mid-range quality Lifetime movie). It is clear that you're not even versed in the industry which you are wholeheartedly defending. I mean the number of movies FEATURING Black maids, my gosh, half of which probably starred Whoopi Goldberg! I would have respected these actresses more if they had just been like, "Yes, we get it" and then said something profound to make us all understand (I choose not to, but I'm sure if I wanted to, I pull something out of my arse)..., but to get mad and chastise those who must navigate the REAL world everyday based on images you're breathing life into on screen (going global btw), Viola, because Black actors need to work, Viola, like...really? To not use this moment to engage in REAL dialogue, based on truth - not the Black actors' paychecks is a damn shame. I had the same concerns about your extremely brief, Oscar nominated, role in Doubt where for all of probably 3 minutes on-screen, in-Toto, your character with a similar indignant carriage as your TS video here, chose to send her son to the pedophile priest because of possible opportunities for "her" son in the future... Oscar nod...yes, I had my doubts about that as well, but I got 5:16 into THIS vid and couldn't continue when I saw that you just were not getting it. PLEASE PEOPLE, do NOT allow these Black actors to turn the psychosis of Hollywood and Madison Avenue against you, the mocked, because you demand not even a 1/100th of what Hollywood and Madison Avenue offer to White society which then makes the Black actor's begging for work more difficult. Execution? I don't know too many Black women who couldn't play sad and pitiful... ***this was a rant***

  • BluTopaz | February 10, 2012 8:58 PM

    "execution"--I know, she makes it sound like playing a long suffering Black woman in America is this lost art that was revived in this flick. And peep how Tavis kept challenging her on her August Wilson comparisons with this Lifetime movie. I also did not see what was so great about her brief scene in Doubt. She showed up, said her monologue with snot running and walked away.

  • KAY | February 10, 2012 7:09 PMReply

    I love Viola! She articulated the plight of a Black Actress perfectly. They both did an amazing portrayal of women that we are afraid to face. I do say to Tavis and all the others who want to put the decisions of Hollywood history on their shoulders, stop it at once. Until, the very people who are complaining, as they said, distribute the kind of films they supposedly want to see, you are apart of the problem. This day and age we really don't need the big studios anymore to distribute content, they are becoming a dinosour. Unless we stop holding debates and do something about it, the Black actress will become just as extinct. There are limited images anywhere of us and when we do get the opportunity to shine and show the dynamic artistry that we are constantly trying to convience Hollywood we have, we can't even revel in it, without "Our People" bringing us down. Participate in solution Tavis and quite talking.

  • Black Artist | February 13, 2012 5:59 PM

    Blutopaz, you know absolutely NOTHING about acting if you could not see how Viola came out of no where and stole the show from Meryl Streep, who later RAVED about Viola's performance. I bet you think Streep can't act. Keep sitting in the basement of your Mama's house, watching tv , and dream of really talented people that are doing something with their lives; 'cause on Academy night, Viola will stand, dressed beautifully, going on to the next phase of her career, and you'll still be bitter and have nothing!

  • Darelle | February 10, 2012 6:35 PMReply

    So, does this mean if I saw Pariah I can hate "The Help"?

  • keepingitreal | February 10, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    I think Tavis should do a part 2 after the oscars. This is proof that blacks can get together and have a respectful conversation. NOT ALL BLACK PEOPLE ARE GHETTO AND LOUD!!!!

  • Sis Marpessa | February 10, 2012 4:45 PMReply

    The ladies were eloquent, but the conversation didn't go far enough as the initial question was not adequately dealt with, what/why Hollywood rewards certain images when it comes to Black people, perfect example given was the variety of films Denzel should have won for. Hollyweird and their awards should not be celebrated when they're so blatantly skewed and all of the ceremonies are unapologetically lily-white to this day.

  • Ali | February 10, 2012 5:01 PM

    Because, honestly, the Oscars is just a small fraction of individuals working within the industry honoring what the big dogs throw out and produce. It's foolish to criticize the awards for what types of roles black people win and are nominated for, the main problem is blacks are not given opportunities for other types of roles. It bothers me when people misconstrue the Oscars as a racist organization that is purposely picking out the least "positive" or most "stereotypical" black roles they can find. No, that's mostly what's out there. Why would 6000 individuals in the Academy give what is perceived as the highest honor in Hollywood (that many whites want and will remain unrewarded) to a black person in a "negative" role? To keep black actors down? How does that work? The type of role most actors win for could be perceived as "negative" and they usually are very flawed human beings. Not just black actors. That's how you show your skills. Those are the interesting films to watch. Awards are not the problem here. And Tavis Smiley clearly made a mistake when she says that Denzel Washington wasn't nominated for Malcolm X. He was. And Al Pacino won that year because he had never won. There are plenty of other politics involved with the awards.

  • deep.honey | February 10, 2012 4:24 PMReply

    I caught a bit of the interview yesterday. Still not interested in seeing The Help, but I loved Viola's passionate defense of her art, and I appreciate her willingness to talk about the about the difficulties of being a black actress in Hollywood. Her comment about mostly being offered "crackhead" roles by black writers blew my mind...

  • Donella | February 10, 2012 4:13 PMReply

    Great interview with Viola, Octavia, and Tavis. I have just been convinced to see The Help. The book turned me off the movie until now, but the actresses convinced me that viewing their performances would be time well-spent.

  • Donella | February 21, 2012 7:55 PM

    Just saw The Help. Stockett's book turned me off because she skated by an important issue--the real and common threat of sexual abuse by males of the households in which they worked. The movie elected not to deal with that ugly secret at all. Viola Davis deserves the Best Actress nomination for her understated, powerful performance. Totally disagree with her statement that Black people are killing the Black artist. As for Octavia Spencer or Jessica Chastain for Best Supporting Actress, I don't have strong feelings either direction. Appreciated Cicely Tyson and Anjuane Ellis as part of the ensemble.

  • Reece X | February 10, 2012 4:05 PMReply

    I love Viola Davis!!!!!!!!!! I love her.

  • angie | February 10, 2012 4:04 PMReply

    I LOVE VIOLA DAVIS! lol this debate was so needed. I agree the artist should be free to express. it's the EXECUTION my people. The execution. I pray that this movement we see in film, Pariah, I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere, An Oversimplification of her Beauty, etc carries ON and the high-rollers of color in Hollywood would catch on, come together and DISTRIBUTE!

  • Kia | February 10, 2012 3:37 PMReply

    Viola Davis is on point when she ping backed to the writers--black--as well for offering her the same shit that people are complaining about. I know I didn't care for The Help's premise, but I do see or at least beginning to see Viola and Octavia's viewpoint. And for once, Tavis Smiley didn't annoy me--lol

  • Tal | February 10, 2012 3:06 PMReply

    This is phenomenal, and I totally get what Viola was saying: The problem is not that there are (perceived as) stereotypical minority characters, but that those are the ONLY images we see. We're blaming the actors for taking roles that others see as stereotypes, when we should be blaming the industry for not creating more roles that are different in order to create a more realistically complex picture of minority experience.

  • Michael | February 10, 2012 2:39 PMReply

    Viola fully explained her statement of Black Culture killing the artist. When you shut down artist who play controversial roles you are limiting their craft and pigeon holding them into certain roles. We should play maids, if its a good role. We should be able to play the serial killer. Everyone had a great point in the interview. The last comment clearly didn't hear what Viola was really saying and Tavis got it!

  • Clayton | February 10, 2012 2:30 PMReply

    Viola, I love you...lol. She has to be in my head some way. I always said the same thing. For instance, people criticize Tyler Perry's stereotypes. I never had a problem with the types because, as he said many times in defense, there are people like his characters. My problem was always execution: character development, lack of complexity, structure, scene breakdown, dialogue, camera, blocking, etc. I couldn't care less about the type of characters in his films. When you tell the truth, it's not always going to be pretty. We're not perfect.

  • Jayson Jay | February 10, 2012 2:29 PMReply

    This is the first time in a long time I've agreed with Tavis, this movie leaves me cold. I feel the history was done an injustice much like Mississippi Burning.

  • Clayton | February 10, 2012 2:22 PMReply

    Viola nailed it. They are destroying the black artist. It's true.

  • Darkan | February 10, 2012 2:09 PMReply

    To say that people in the black culture are killing the artist was an appalling statement by Mrs. Davis. I almost screamed at the screen. It's just that some of us want to see an equal amount of balanced types of films and characters. I'm glad that Travis went in and corrected her. Octavia saying that she does whatever she wants and has no responsibility for the bearing of her work on our community was also a slap in the face. We do want to face our past, some of us just want to face it truthfully. There was a lot of rhetoric and contridictions being spoken by Viola and Octavia. I'm surprised many of you didn't pick up on it.

  • clayton | February 24, 2012 1:26 PM

    @ Darkan, I wouldn't include Oscar glory with the "we" you're referring to as a people who want to face our past. The two have nothing to do with each other. Oscars are given by the voters of the Academy. And Amistad was nominated but didn't actually garner the Oscar in any of their categories. Also, Amistad only made $44.2 million domestically, something a Madea film makes in its first two weeks of release, and both films were made for the same audience. Amistad didn't get the support it deserved, thus proving that the "we" you're referring to DON'T want to face the past in some degree through cinema. They prefer comedy.

  • Darkan | February 10, 2012 7:25 PM

    @ Clayton, what point are you trying to make? Amistad made 60 Million Dollars at the box office and garnered 4 Oscars on a budget of 40 Million. That my friend equates to a success despite the fact that it was somewhat truthful in it's execution.

  • Clayton | February 10, 2012 2:40 PM

    DARKAN said, "We do want to face our past, some of us just want to face it truthfully." Is that the reason why Steven Spielberg's Amistad was so successful at the box office? Smdh.

  • LeonRaymond | February 10, 2012 1:23 PMReply

    The juiciest part of the conversation was A) The scripts that Mrs Davis is getting, come please people can't we be more creative, we are holding on to an image as her as a crack addicted, ebonics spouting mother etc, etc, it shows Black folks very supreme limited view and focus. B) Octavia hit it out of the park in asking why can't we come together to make our own industry, make films we want to see, help fund various projects. I hear their is a script and short film floating around out there written by Black writers and filmed by them on the subject of the Holocaust, that shows we can broaden our scope. why can't we broaden it enough to do other folks stories.? the entire conversation was awesome and again Octavia hit it out of the park when she spoke about PARIAH, folks should marched in droves to see that film!!!

  • B | February 12, 2012 6:07 PM

    About Pariah, you said: "folks should marched in droves to see that film!!!" Well, that's easy to say if you live in NY, Philly, Chi, and other major cities where the film was actually released. The film has only been released in a couple of dozen theatres for god sake! How are we supposed to rush out and see it if it's nowhere near our city (and yes, I've begged my local theaters to pick up Pariah, but none have done so so far)? Just like Viola and Octavia, you are missing the core problem: DISTRIBUTION. Viola and Octavia's willingness to just gloss over the importance of distribution, in order to blame black filmgoers, was simply appalling to me. Black Hollywood (and their short-sightedness and assimilationist tendencies) is the problem: they have the resources to pool their money together and form their own distribution organization (e.g. what Ava Duvernay and others did with AFFRM), but none of them care enough it seems. They'd rather just blame black filmgoers whenever anyone calls them out on their b.s. I hope they do well at the Oscars, but Viola and Octavia need to open their eyes.

  • illthoughts | February 10, 2012 1:17 PMReply

    Great video! I watched The Help the other day and have to say the black characters weren't the problem. It was the ever so nice white characters in a state where more black men were hanged in than in Vietnam. The film had one villain and the rest of them were sympathetic figures. I mean they were only racist because of peer pressure, get out of here with that nonsense. They took a violent place and time in history and Disneyfied it. I think that's where most people have a problem with.

  • David | February 10, 2012 3:32 PM

    @IllThoughts -- I don't think there was even one sympathetic white character. I mean, maybe (barely) Skeeter, but the rest were caricatured racists. And that's precisely the problem and speaks to Viola's point: it's easy to broad-brush human caricatures -- whether they be racist, easily or not easily sympathetic -- in one stroke, rather than do the messy work of creating characters of ambivalence, of interiors, of conflict... characters that are actual human.

  • sandra | February 10, 2012 2:58 PM

    @ILLTHOUGHTS - Preach it! They were more focused on portraying a 1950's Vogue magazine spread then a story based on historical accuracies. V, O and co. still came out on top though. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm bracing myself for the scenes when V's character is talking to the lilly-white girl and sounds like a female Forest Gump. Yeesh!

  • sandra | February 10, 2012 1:16 PMReply

    I can't seem to view the video at the moment, but I will indeed watch 'The Help". Viola and Octavia have won me over. I respect them both. They have respect for their craft and the business. They both ended up giving their careers such a boost with these roles. Great move on both parts! I would, however, like to see them in more complex roles in the future.

  • David | February 10, 2012 1:07 PMReply

    Huge, huge respect to all three for engaging in a necessary and vital conversation.
    Without playing one side to another, I think the nature of the disagreement boils down less to conflicts about race, the industry's bias, etc.

    It's about the nature of critic and activist (Smiley) whose lens is largely informed by a social and political context and perspective vs. the artist and practitioner (Viola and Octavia) whose lens and work primarily (and need to put that qualifier in: *primarily*) is informed by a narrative, dramatic context and practice. I don't think these are all mutually exclusive, but the clash between critic and performer has always been fluid, tenuous, sometime explosive, and it makes for the some of the most thought provoking dialogue.

    (Viola actually uses the word "execution" -- in lieu of the word practice, or dramatic achievability -- and she is dead on. )

  • Malikastone | February 10, 2012 4:32 PM

    Great points, David!

  • Dr. Johnson | February 10, 2012 1:13 PM

    Preach David!!!

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