You’ve seen the memes and tweets about Viola Davis‘ performance as Michelle Obama in the Showtime series The First Lady. People have joked Davis’ mouth placement and speech, but what does the actual dialect coach think about the public’s reaction?
“I did a little looking at reviews in the last few weeks, as they started to come out. [But] I’ve made a conscious effort to stay away from people’s feedback about the show, just because it can be so unwieldy,” said Joel Goldes to Variety.
. Goldes is a dialect coach who has been working with Davis for years when it comes to film preparation, including 'The First Lady.'
“I would say that, if there’s something that Michelle does, then that’s a thing that Viola adopted,” he continued. “That’s the danger of playing an actual person; people have an impression of what that person did, and that’s based on getting acquainted with them when they’re in the media. People might not remember something that Michelle did, but I would say if Viola did it, then it’s something that Michelle did, and that is accurate. It’s tough to play the perceived idea of who someone is versus the actuality.”
In the interview, Goldes talked about the extensive work he and Davis did to practice Obama's mannerisms, a process that took about a year to complete.
While the two did listen to a lot of Obama’s speeches and her audiobook of her memoir Becoming, Goldes said that they created their own version of how Obama might sound in her everyday life.
"The big thing was that no one knows what she sounds like in her private life, so we made a big, artistic leap in terms of figuring that out," he said. "I took this wealth of audio and video information and distilled it into a one-page breakdown of how Michelle talks."
However, even though so much time was taken to perfect Obama’s performance, it would appear the internet has given its verdict in the starkest of terms.