Viola Davis Talks Her Female-Led TIFF Heist Drama ‘Widows’: ‘This Kind Of Role Isn’t Usually Out There For A Woman Of Colour’

Viola Davis is ready to take on TIFF with her latest role as a grieving-widow-turned-bank robber in “Widows”.

The 53-year-old Oscar winner assures Variety this isn’t a fun con job caper like audiences have seen in the “Ocean’s” franchise.

“I have issues with stories of people who just get out of bed and start robbing banks,” she says, explaining her latest project. “As an actor, I needed to know what would drive a seemingly together woman to do this, and it always starts with someone reaching bottom.”

RELATED: Viola Davis Leads Group Of Fearless Women In First Trailer For Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows’

For Davis, that rock bottom for her character in “Widows” is grief. Davis is Veronica Rawlins, a woman whose husband (played by Liam Neeson) and his band of thieves met their end when their latest criminal job went sideways. Enter three other widowed women – played by Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo – who now must band together to pay the debt to a drug dealer (Daniel Kaluuya) left behind by their deceased spouses.

Despite weighty themes in the film which include police shootings, poverty, political social climbing and domestic abuse, co-star Rodriguez says she had the chance to appreciate a master like Davis at work.

RELATED: Style Evolution: Viola Davis

“She’s so gangster,” Rodriguez says. “She’ll be laughing one minute, and then she’ll go to this dark place when the camera rolls and she’ll be crying. It’s that ability to snap in and out of her emotions that amazes me.”

“People try to be too nice with women. They keep them pretty. They keep them likable. They cater to male fantasies. They cater to the male gaze. This film didn’t do that,” Davis says of director Steve McQueen’s film.

With a screenplay co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, Davis’ character was originally written for a white actress and was retrofitted to suit Davis.

RELATED: Viola Davis Speaks Out On Her Experiences With Sexual Harassment: ‘I Have My Own Stories’

“This kind of role isn’t usually out there for a woman of colour,” she says, adding that McQueen was adamant the actress leave the wig or extensions behind and wear her hair natural.

“You’re always taught as a person of colour to not like your hair,” Davis explains. “The kinkier it is, the so-called nappier it is, the uglier it is.” But the director told her her natural hair was “beautiful” and her natural hair looked like so many women as opposed to the glossy Hollywood ideal of beauty.

“We’re into a zeitgeist where people are fighting for their space to be seen,” she tells Variety. “People have to know that there are different types of women of colour. We’re not all Foxy Brown. We’re not all brown or light-skinned beauties with a big Afro. We have the girl next door. We have the older, dark-skinned, natural-haired woman.”

“Widows” premieres at TIFF before opening in theatres on Nov. 16.

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TIFF 2018 Must-See Films


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