‘HTGAWM’s’ Viola Davis Discusses The Challenges Of TV: ‘People Have To Think You’re Pretty’

How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis was a huge actress before she made the switch to TV, playing the hardened attorney Annalise Keating. She was nominated for two Oscars for her roles in The Help and Doubt, and was getting steady work as an actress. That said, during a Roundtable interview with the Hollywood Reporter, she points to TV as the first time she was seen as a sexualized woman.

“There was absolutely no precedent for it. I had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualized role in TV or film. I’m a sexual woman, but nothing in my career has ever identified me as a sexualized woman. I was the prototype of the ‘mommified’ role.”

As for TV in general, Viola Davis stated at the Roundtable interview that there’s definitely a “likability factor” involved. She continued, “People have to like you. People have to think you’re pretty. I was going to have to face a fact that people were going to look at me and say: ‘I have no idea why they cast her in a role like this. She just doesn’t fit.’ It should have been someone like Halle Berry. It’s her voice, and she doesn’t walk like a supermodel in those heels.”

So how does Viola see this role and what it brings to TV? The actress went on to say, “This role was my way of saying, ‘Welcome to womanhood!’ It’s also healed me and shown a lot of little dark-skinned girls with curly hair a physical manifestation of themselves.”

This isn’t the first time Viola Davis has spoken about this issue for black actresses, especially those with darker shades of skin. Back in 2014, the actress told the New York Times about the roles she was offered.

“I have been given a lot of roles that are downtrodden, mammy-ish. You’re going to get your three or four scenes, you’re not going to be able to show what you can do. You’re going to get your little bitty paycheck, and then you’re going to be hungry for your next role, which is going to be absolutely the same. That’s the truth.”

Speaking about her role on How to Get Away With Murder, she said in the profile piece, “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this.” In the piece she referred to herself as, “a woman of color, of a certain age, and a certain hue.” At the time, she drew comparisons to lighter skinned actresses like Halle Berry and Kerry Washington, who are sexualized in their work.

What do you think of Viola Davis’ bold remarks on women of color and how they’re depicted in Hollywood?

[Image via ABC]

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