Tom Hanks and Viola Davis have a strong chance at Oscar nominations: Hanks for his performance in “Sully” and Davis for her performance in the upcoming “Fences”. The two took part in Variety‘s Actors on Actors and discussed everything from making biopics to diversity in film and television to being on stage.
Hanks notes the “diversity bonanza” over the last few years. While there is a wealth of diversity on television, he notes that studios still have hesitations. For Davis, even in the best of film roles – they still have confines: “Even in fabulous roles, they are still within the confines of being ‘strong,’ ‘a device,’ ‘funny,’” Davis revealed.
Those confines extend into genre, too. “If it’s a black movie, at best it’s a biopic because it makes the audience feel comfortable that I am investing in this black person’s humanity, who I already know has made a mark in the world,” Davis admitted.
Davis, of course, is the star of the smash-hit “How To Get Away With Murder”, now in its third season. The role of Annalise Keating was an opportunity to break through the confines: “I saw that role as an opportunity for something that was way bigger than doing good work. I saw it as an opportunity for a dark-skinned actress of 50 to be in a role that is sexualized, not sexy — there is a difference between sexualized and sexy,” Davis said. “I saw it as an opportunity, a blank palate, or canvas, to put my mark on.”
And what’s the big difference between stage and film? For Hanks, unfortunately film lives forever. “The bad thing about doing things on film is they live forever. If you’re going through the grid seven years after you’ve made the movie and boom! — there it is on HBO or Showtime, and you end up catching seven or eight minutes — that’s all I can stand of any one of my movies,” he said.