In BAFTA Career Retrospective Conversation, Viola Davis Revisits 'The Help' with a Critical Eye + Much More
Photo Credit: Viola Davis at BAFTA event "A Life in Pictures"
Film , Television , Web Series

In BAFTA Career Retrospective Conversation, Viola Davis Revisits 'The Help' with a Critical Eye + Much More

Viola Davis at BAFTA event "A Life in Pictures"
Viola Davis at BAFTA event “A Life in Pictures”

Last weekend, on Sunday January 15, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) hosted a tribute to actress Viola Davis during which she discussed her craft and career, at a special event called “BAFTA: A Life in Pictures,” which took place at BAFTA’s headquarters in London. The full conversation is now online and embedded at the bottom of this post.

Speaking at the BAFTA event, Davis discussed the highlights of her career – stage, film and TV – what she believes is necessary for change in the industry, and much more: “The world is changing & art has to reflect that. Audiences will demand it,” Davis said.

She also talked quite a bit about “The Help,” remembering it as both a project she signed up for as what she hoped would be a good career move that would lead to better things, while still also admitting that she had some issues with the film, notably its depiction of the lives of black characters at the time, and its sanitized portrayal of race relations.

“I absolutely love the premise,” she said. “I love the fact that [Emma Stone’s character] said ‘I am going to write a story from the maids’ perspective of what it feels like to work with these white women’. Operative term meaning the maids’ perspective. I don’t feel like it was from our perspective, that’s the problem I had with it. I had it from the very beginning.”

She added: “The anger, the vitriol, and the hatred that they would have towards these white women if they were asked, if they were put in a situation where they were isolated, would have been vocalized. You didn’t see none of that!”

Davis shared that there were scenes that depicted the anger she talks about from the maids, but they were ultimately left on the cutting room floor.

“That’s the issue I have with a lot of our stories. By the time … it makes it to the screen, the truth is so filtered down, and then it’s given to you to make you feel very comfortable,” she said. “It’s not our job to make you feel comfortable, it really isn’t. If you feel comfortable, then that is your journey, and your cross to bear. That is the beauty of art, the beauty of art is that we throw it to you, you receive it, and if you shift in some way, [then] we’ve done our job.”

It was a film that she and co-star Octavia Spencer faced a barrage of criticism over, and had to frequently defend their decisions to star in the film during press interviews while promoting it.

“The Help” grossed over $200 million worldwide, gave Davis her second Oscar nomination, with Spencer winning her first. Davis is currently the favorite to be nominated and win an Oscar for her performance in Fences – a role she previously won a Tony for after its Broadway revival in 2010. She already picked up a Golden Globe for the part earlier this month.

The BAFTA event saw Davis revisit her life and career, from her childhood poverty in Rhode Island, to a star of Broadway, film and TV, including her embrace of Annalise Keating – the kind of character/role she’d never been offered before – in ABC’s Shondaland drama, “How to Get Away with Murder.”

The full conversation is now online courtesy of BAFTA. Listen to it below (it’s just over an hour long):

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