Viola Davis is expanding her acting repertoire with Steve McQueen's thriller Widows, and it's a role that speaks to Davis' desire to play complex Black women, living and loving as they see fit.
"For me, this is something you'll not see this year, last year, the year before that," she said in her interview with The Guardian. "That is, a dark-skinned woman of colour, at 53 years old, kissing Liam Neeson. Not just kissing a white man. Liam Neeson, a hunk. And kissing him sexually, romantically."
Roles with meat to their bones and aren't mired in social commentary is what Davis wants to see more of, but unfortunately, those roles are few and far between in Hollywood.
"I always say that one thing missing in cinema is that regular Black woman," she said. "Not anyone didactic, or whose sole purpose in the narrative is to illustrate some social abnormality. There's not meaning behind it, other than she is just there...I would love to have a black female Klute, or Kramer, or Unmarried Woman or Annie Hall. But who's gonna write it, who's gonna produce it, who's gonna see it, again and again and again?"
Those who have followed Davis' career know she has played roles that have used her more as an object rather than as a fully-formed character. Her role in The Help is one such role; even though she poured herself into the character of maid Aibileen, she said Hollywood didn't see her as "a box office draw."
"I went right back to playing the same roles I did before The Help, only getting paid a little bit more money. It's like you have to sift through sewage in order to get what you feel like you deserve."
The amount of sifting Davis and other Black actresses have to do is a labor white actresses never experience; as Davis mentioned, this year's Forbes list of the top 10 highest paid actresses are all white.
"Some of them haven't even done a film in the past year, and they're still up there," she said.
During the interview, Davis said how the stress of trying to make it in Hollywood and be taken seriously took its toll.
"I was trying to fit in, stifling my voice, stifling who I was, in order to be seen as pretty, in order for people to like me," she said. "And then going home, not being able to sleep and having anxiety. I have found that the labeling of me, and having to fit into that box, has cost me a great deal. I've had a lot of lost years."
Thankfully, Davis hasn't given up the fight of playing well-rounded Black women.
"I've gone through the heartache of losing a parent, the joys of being married, the joys of getting a job. I've lived a life, so when I read a script, and it strikes me as being disingenuous--a person who's not fully explored--that's what stops me."
You can read the full interview at The Guardian.