Davis told BBC News that it is "incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work.” She also said that criticism is an "occupational hazard" of acting. But she gave an indication of how she deals with it.
"How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?" she said. "But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance."
She also said how playing someone as recognizable as Obama was “almost impossible,” adding, “Either you’re doing too much or not enough.”
She also doesn’t know what Obama herself thought of her portrayal, saying, “I don’t have any personal contact with Michelle Obama.”
Viewers of the program have not minced words regarding how they feel about Davis’ performance.
Many have taken to Twitter to lambast her for creating an overemphasis on Obama’s lip and mouth movements. Others have also commented on the makeup choices, including covering Davis’ eyebrows to draw on pencil-thin brows reminiscent of Obama’s brows during her husband Barack’s first presidential run.
Davis isn't mincing words about their reactions, either.
One thing she said in the interview that has been making the rounds is how she feels about the online trolling she’s received for her performance.
“Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either,” she said. “They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth’. So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you. But ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that.”
While the “critics” who talked about Davis’ performance were not legitimate film critics but people on Twitter who were making fun of her, published writers and regular social media users alike are responding to Davis’ comeback.
Baltimore Magazine editor-in-chief and media critic Max Weiss wrote, “I’m shocked that Viola Davis, who has received almost nothing but critical valentines her entire career, has no use for critics. I can’t imagine how BAD actors must feel about us.”
I’m shocked that Viola Davis, who has received almost nothing but critical valentines her entire career, has no use for critics. I can’t imagine how BAD actors must feel about us.
— Max Weiss (@maxthegirl) April 26, 2022
Austin Chronicle culture editor Richard Whittaker wrote how critics aren’t there to assuage actors’ egos.
“Viola Davis’ comment that critics serve no purpose is a reminder that we’re not here to pander to actors’ egos. We’re here to help audiences decide how they want to spend hours of their precious free time,” he wrote.
Viola Davis’ comment that critics serve no purpose is a reminder that we’re not here to pander to actors’ egos. We’re here to help audiences decide how they want to spend hours of their precious free time.
— Richard Whittaker is still at SXSW (@YorkshireTX) April 26, 2022
Though the proper term should have been "online trolls" instead of "critics" in most of the reporting of her quotes, it hasn't stopped the internet from reacting.
Previously, Davis’ dialect coach Joel Goldes spoke about the criticism to Variety, saying that while he has seen some of the reviews earlier on, he hasn’t read many of the reactions viewers had to Davis’ performance.