Viola Davis Discusses the Lack of Diversity in Cinema

In Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series, Viola Davis sat down for a conversation with Tom Hanks, and they spoke about how they prepare for upcoming roles, their experience in theater, diversity in film and television, and more in a brilliant and candid discission.

When discussing issues pertaining to diversity in entertainment, Davis revealed “Even in fabulous roles, they (black people) are still within the confines of being ‘strong,’ ‘a device,’ ‘funny.’  If it’s a black movie, at best it’s a biopic because it makes the audience feel comfortable that I am investing in this black person’s humanity, who I already know has made a mark in the world.”

Davis also touched on the importance of her role on the hit ABC series How To Get Away With Murder.  She revealed that she saw the role of Analise Keating to break through the stereotypical confines of how women of color are generally represented on television: “I saw that role as an opportunity for something that was way bigger than doing good work. I saw it as an opportunity for a dark-skinned actress of 50 to be in a role that is sexualized, not sexy — there is a difference between sexualized and sexy, and messy and maybe sociopathic.  I’m use to playing housewives, maids, and crackheads…I saw it as a blank canvas to put my mark on.  I was not interested in boundaries.  I was not interested in saying, This is who she is.  This is how she acts.  I was interested in taking the ball and running with it.”

Check out the entire chat between Davis and Hanks above.  The interview will air in full on Variety‘s “Actors on Actors” Season 5, presented by The Venetian Las Vegas, which debuts on PBS SoCal on Jan. 3rd.



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The HBR Media Team is a collective group of black women filmmakers, writers, and studio/network executives who are passionate about bringing visibility to women of African descent working in film and television.

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