Viola Davis Gets Candid About Race, Sexism & Aging In Hollywood

Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
When Scandal aired in 2012, praise for the new political thriller was nearly unanimous. Not only was it a breath of fresh air amidst the overwhelming landscape of reality TV, but for the first time in almost 40 years, a Black woman was the lead in a network drama. Furthermore, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) was caught in a love triangle with two white men. Talk about a new era. Creator Shonda Rhimes was showered with accolades, so when she announced her new show, How To Get Away With Murder, which would air two years later, viewers were all ears. Little did we know how much character Annalise Keating, played by Viola Davis, would further change the game.

In a recent roundtable interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Davis took the conversation about what it means to be a Black woman as the lead of hit network series to a new level. Alongside fellow Emmy contenders — including Taraji P. Henson, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jessica Lange — Davis spoke openly about her journey from fear of typecasting, to having the determination to make a visible difference on HTGAWM.

"It was one of those things where I had no precedent for this role. I had never seen a 49-year-old, dark-skinned woman who is not a size 2 be a sexualized role in TV, film, everywhere "she said. Henson chimed in, adding an "ever" to the end of Davis's sentence, further emphasizing the severe lack of diversity in Hollywood. As a result, one might expect Davis to be thrilled when she got the part. On the contrary, she was terrified about how to tackle it.

"When I actually saw myself for the first time in the pilot episode, I was mortified," she explained. Davis was disgusted with the disguise of her natural self. "I saw the fake eyelashes, I saw the wig, I was like "Are you kidding me, who's going to believe this?"."

This "aha moment" led to what would soon be one of the most impactful scenes surrounding Black women and natural beauty in Hollywood history. In season 1 of HTGAWM, Davis removes her wig, make up, and jewelry to truly bare her essentials. Take a look at the poignant scene below.
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In her almost 30 years of acting Davis has made monumental strides for Black women in Hollywood. However, some might argue that her role as Annalise Keating in HTGAWM has been the most impactful. Either way, her transparency, courage and commitment to opening doors that didn't exit just a decade a ago, is admirable. (The Hollywood Reporter)



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