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Viola Davis Explains Why She Would Still Never Be Cast as the Lead in a Movie Like Eat, Pray, Love

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For years, Viola Davis has been using her influence and platform to incite meaningful conversations about representation in Hollywood. The Oscar and Emmy winning actress continues to make huge strides in an industry that has a lot of work to do when it comes to casting dark-skinned women in a range of roles, and that’s something Davis knows all too well. In a recent interview, Davis got incredibly candid about how far Hollywood still has to go when it comes to the types of opportunities that are offered to dark-skinned actresses.

“I know that when I left How to Get Away With Murder that I don’t see a lot of dark skin women in lead roles on TV and not even in streaming services,” the Finding Me author recently shared with Variety at the Cannes Film Festival. “And that ties into ideology and ethos and mentality, and that’s speaking in the abstract. Why aren’t you hiring a dark skin woman when she walks in the room and you say she blows you away? Create space and storytelling for her so when she thrives she’s not thriving despite of her circumstance but thriving because of her circumstance,” Davis continued.

Davis, herself, has been working to try and create more opportunities in the industry. As Variety notes, her production company JuVee Productions is taking on projects with a range of diverse stories, including her upcoming film The Woman King. Still, more work has to be done, and it cannot solely rely on trailblazers like Davis to do all the work.

“If I wanted to play a mother whose family lives in a low income neighborhood and my son was a gang member who died in a drive by shooting, I could get that made,” Davis observed. “If I played a woman who was 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,” she continued, referencing a type of Eat, Pray, Love narrative. Oddly enough, Davis had a supporting role in the 2010 film starring Julia Roberts.

For Davis, she knows part of the reason you wouldn’t likely see her in an Eat, Pray, Love-style film is because “people can’t reconcile the Blackness with the spiritual awakening and the sexuality. It’s too much for them.” Davis elucidated further on how race and colorism have played a role in the jobs she has not gotten. “Let’s be honest. If I had my same features and I were five shades lighter, it would just be a little bit different. 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,” she explained.

As accomplished as Davis is, the venerated actress still has to overcome several barriers in order to play the roles and tell the stories that most interest her. Davis has already done so much to call out bias and prejudice, systemic and otherwise, when she’s seen it. We just hope that more people in positions of power follow her example and account for their biases so the scope of stories in Hollywood tells widens.

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