Racism is still very much alive in Hollywood.
During a talk with Variety on Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, Viola Davis opened up about her experience as a Black woman in Hollywood.
“If I wanted to play a mother whose family lives in a challenging, low-income neighbourhood and my son was a gang member who died in a drive-by shooting, I could get that made,” Davis said. “If I played a woman who was, I don’t know, looking to recreate herself by flying to Nice and sleeping with five men at the age of 56, looking like me, I’m going to have a hard time pushing that one — even as Viola Davis. Because people can’t reconcile the Blackness with spiritual awakening and sexuality.”
She continued, sharing one anecdote in which a director once called her by his maid’s name.
“It’s too much — it’s too much when you look like ‘my maid Louise,'” the actress said. “And I say that because I actually had a director who did that to me — who said, ‘Louise!’ — and I’d known him for like 10 years and he called me Louise, and I found out it’s because his maid’s name was Louise. So, that has not changed.”
David added, “Any rejection that I’ve had where people said that I was not not pretty enough for a role really gets on my damn nerves… A lot of it is based in race.”
She also explained that she firmly believes if her skin was a lighter complexion, she would have a different experience in the industry.
“If I had my same features and I were five shades lighter, it would just be a little bit different,” Davis said. “And if I had blonde 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 colourism, we could talk about race. It pisses me off, and it’s broken my heart on a number of projects, which I won’t name.”
Even winning an Oscar for her role in “The Help” didn’t boost her career in quite the ways she expected.
“I thought, ‘And now what?'” she recalled. “I was getting the same types of roles, because how else are they going to cast a dark-skinned Black woman who is really not a model?”
She later added, “What it motivated me to do is, yes, get out of my life, but what it also motivated me to do in my anger is create a life that didn’t spit any more Violas out like that, just spit them out and told them there’s nothing out there for them — there’s no rope, there’s no journey, that you’re the leftover,” explaining that’s why she and her husband launched her company JuVee Productions.