Viola Davis is one of those stars who you can count on to deliver the truth. Whether it’s talking about equal pay and opportunities for Black actresses, discussing her thoughts on the #MeToo movement or candidly sharing memories of growing up in poverty, she speaks with intention.
This week, Davis is in Canada at the Toronto International Film Festival promoting her latest project Widows. While there, she spoke with The New York Times about some of her professional challenges and regrets over the years.
As for challenges, Davis said, “The responsibility of feeling like I am the great black female hope for women of color has been a real professional challenge.”
And when it comes to regrets, Davis said she regrets taking on The Help.
“Have I ever done roles that I’ve regretted? I have, and The Help is on that list. But not in terms of the experience and the people involved because they were all great. 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 Tate Taylor.
I just felt that at the end of the day that it wasn’t the voices of the maids that were heard. I know Aibileen. I know Minny. They’re my grandma. They’re my mom. And I know that if you do a movie where the whole premise is, 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.”
This criticism is one Black people have been making since The Help was released in 2011. Several Black writers and audience-goers felt that the movie was so successful, with her co-star Octavia Spencer winning an Oscar, because it played into stereotypes and made White people feel comfortable with Black women in positions of subservience.
While Davis wouldn’t take on a role like this today, there’s no doubt that it served as great exposure for both her and Spencer. Now the roles they take are multilayered, complex and far from stereotypical. It’s just a shame that Davis and Spencer had to pay that tax just 7 years ago.
Are you surprised to hear Davis admits that she regrets this role?