It’s been nine years since Viola Davis appeared in The Help. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, the Oscar winning actress looked back at the movie and explained why she feels like she “betrayed” herself by acting in the film.
The remarkable 2011 film
Davis played the role of a maid, Aibileen Clark, who worked for a socialite white family in the 1960s. Fellow actress, Octavia Spencer played another maid being mistreated by the family that she worked for. Davis was nominated for Best Actress at the 2012 Academy Awards for her role. Spencer went on to win Best Supporting Actress.
The movie sees both women rise above their situations, but Davis noted how it centers on white voices and caters to a white audience. In the interview, Davis explained that the movie might provide some insight into some of the experiences of Black Americans. However, its structure and the voices it chooses to centralize do not contribute to a greater culture of understanding.
Davis certainly doesn’t regret working with the cast and writer-director. However, she was discouraged by the oversimplified way the film dealt with racism and the inner lives of the Black characters.
“They’re not moved by who we were”
“Not a lot of narratives are invested in our humanity,” Davis said. “They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but it’s catering to the white audience. They can at the most sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theater and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.”
Davis confessed that she took on the role in hopes that she would “pop” into stardom, which she said is an opportunity that very few Black women get. Even so, she said the movie’s hesitance to share a more inclusive and accurate story has left her feeling disappointed in her involvement.
“There’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself”
“There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help. But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people. Because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to tell the whole truth about racism,” the Oscar winner added. In this way, Viola says, “The Help was ‘created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism‘ that pervades society.”
“It wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard”
This isn’t the first time Viola’s has addressed her work on The Help. Davis previously opened up about regretting the role in a 2018 interview with The New York Times.
“I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard,” Davis said at the time. “I know Aibileen, I know Minny. They’re my grandma, they’re my mom. I want to know what it feels like to work for white people and to bring up children in 1963. I want to hear how you really feel about it, I never heard that in the course of the movie.”
“I formed friendships that I’m going to have for the rest of my life”
Davis clarified that although she now doesn’t like the way her character was portrayed, she’s still grateful for the bonds she made with her costars. Viola addressed “the love” she has for her co-actresses in the film as well as “the love they have” for her. The beloved movie also stars Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney and Bryce Dallas Howard, who have remained close ever since.
“The friendships that I formed are ones that I’m going to have for the rest of my life. I had a great experience with these other actresses, who are extraordinary human beings. And I could not ask for a better collaborator than [writer-director] Tate Taylor.”
“My entire life has been a protest”
The Help was recently a top title on Netflix, during the Black Lives Matter protests. Davis revealed that she was hesitant to join the large protests in the middle of a pandemic. However, she did organize a small masked demonstration in Studio City where she held a sign reading “AHMAUD ARBERY.”
The actress revealed to the magazine, “I feel like my entire life has been a protest,” which is also the title on her cover. My production company is my protest. Me not wearing a wig at the Oscars in 2012 was my protest. It is a part of my voice. Just like introducing myself to you and saying, ‘Hello, my name is Viola Davis.’”
Also Read : News Highlights From July 2020