The Woman King was greeted with thunderous applause as audiences warmly embraced the historical action epic at its Toronto International Film Festival bow. The premiere of the Gina Prince-Bythewood film was attended by the helmer and star/producer Viola Davis, as well as stars Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Shelia Atim, John Boyega and more.
Davis stars in the film as general of the real all-female military unit known as the Agojie in the West African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s. Inspired by real events, it follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life.
Davis took to the stage ahead of the film's premiere at Roy Thomson Hall to talk about the project, which is seven years in the making, finally being put out.
She said to the crowd, “I feel like my entire life, I’ve allowed myself to be defined by a culture [and] I’ve allowed myself to be defined by the naysayers. I’ve been dropped in a profession that’s defined by deprivation. A lot of times, you just allow other people to define you. At 57 years old, I’ve come to the realization that I can define myself.”
“This film is for the risk takers. This film is for the people who maybe even are the naysayers….who never believed that a Black woman, especially dark-skinned women can lead a global box office. This film is for the Black women who are out there on the periphery [and are] a vehicle to shine a beautiful and glorious light. I’m really proud to be a part of that.”
Davis also talked about the film being her "magnum opus."
The veteran actress is already garnering acclaim for her turn in the pic.
” I always said this film is my magnum opus,” she said. “But it’s my magnum opus because it’s everything I ever dreamed it could be. That we could be humanized. That we can be all those things. But it’s for my six-year old self…the little girl who was traumatized, the little girl who was called ugly, the little girl who wasn’t seen, who was left invisible. I see you Viola. I see every chocolate girl who is like you. I’m telling you to stop running. This is my gift to you.”
The Woman King hits theaters on Sept. 16, 2022.