Viola Davis says a director called her by his maid’s name
Actor Viola Davis recently revealed a racist encounter she had with a director who called her by his maid’s name.
“I knew him for 10 years and he called me Louise, and I find out that it’s because his maid’s name is Louise,” Davis said, without disclosing the director’s name. “I was maybe around 30 at the time, so it was a while ago. But what you have to realize is that those microaggressions happen all the time.”
“A lot of it is based in race. It really is,” Davis said.
“Let’s be honest. If I had my same features and I were five shades lighter, it would just be a little bit different. And if I had blond hair, blue eyes and even a wide nose, it would be even a little bit different than what it is now. We could talk about colorism, we could talk about race. It pisses me off, and it has broken my heart — on a number of projects, which I won’t name.”
Through JuVee Productions — the company she co-founded with her husband, Julius Tennon — the “Fences” star hopes she is expanding the scope of what’s accepted onscreen.
“I know that when I left ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ that I don’t see a lot of dark-skin women in lead roles on TV and not even in streaming services,” Davis said. “Why aren’t you hiring a dark-skin woman when she walks in the room and you say she blows you away? Create space and storytelling for her so when she thrives, she’s not thriving despite of her circumstance but thriving because of her circumstance.”
“They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know,” she added. “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.”
Watch Davis’ full conversation at Cannes below.