Viola Davis will never try to be anyone but herself.
In a new interview with Hoda Kotb on SiriusXM’s TODAY Show Radio Town Hall, the “First Lady” star talks about her new memoir, Finding Me.
During the conversation, the 56-year-old also shares why she believes it’s so important for Hollywood to be authentic, and how she stands up against the pressures to be a different kind of actress.
“‘That’s not who I am.’ That’s a very powerful statement. It’s not who I am,” she says. “I’m not the girl who walks like a supermodel in heels. I admire the ones who do. They look absolutely beautiful. I am not the woman who really is concerned with even being a classical beauty. That’s not who I am. I am not even the woman who is really overly concerned with putting images out there that are always beautiful and about winning and about success. That’s not who I am. Okay. I am about studying life. I am about showing truth. And you know, here’s the thing. Maybe it’s just me. I don’t think truth is ugly, because I don’t think people are ugly.”
She continues, “There is no such thing as another image to truth. And I understand that we all wanna escape. Listen, I wanna escape, too. I watch Marvel movies with my daughter. You know, I do. I love them. I love ‘Zootopia’. I love all the animated movies. ‘Frozen’, I love them all. But when you get down to the brass tacks of being an actor, your job is to give people humanity. And when you see it, and when you are in the presence of it, you cannot deny it. Okay. And when you’re moving through this life, my God, the biggest gift you can give someone is to tell them that who and what they are is absolutely enough. And we are in too much of the business of telling, of shaming people that anything less than perfect is something to keep hidden.”
Davis also shares how she learned from actress Cicely Tyson to embrace her Blackness while she pursued her acting dreams.
“What happened with Miss Tyson is, we no longer imagined ourselves as these sort of rich, white women. We saw ourselves in the dream,” she says of Black women. “It wasn’t the absence of our Blackness and, you know, it was a presence of it where we could dream. And my sisters didn’t even become actors, but it opened the portal for them, too, because listen, you don’t have that. We didn’t have that as Black folk. We just didn’t have it.”
Finally, when it comes to her memoir, Davis also shared the fear she had about revealing so much of herself in a book.
“We’re living in a world that’s not about forgiveness and healing. I do think for some people it is. But for the most part it’s about just cancelling, judging and that was the fear. The fear was, ya know, it’s like the famous saying, ‘When you’re known, you’re misunderstood,’ and I didn’t wanna be misunderstood,” she says. “I wanted the story to be received. I wanted people to hear it, and I didn’t want people to judge it. Until I realized, ‘Viola, the onus of telling your story is on you.'”
Davis adds, “It’s like the famous Ann Lamont quote, that the definition of courage is fear said with prayers. That it’s not the absence of fear, but it is absolutely the presence of it. But the willingness to risk anyway, is really truly the definition of courage.”