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Viola Davis Used Her DNA to Get Action-Star Strong for Her Role in The Woman King

For her upcoming role in The Woman King, a film about the Agojie, an all-female West African army unit, set to release on September 16, 2022, revered actress Viola Davis got into fighting shape. To prepare for the role Davis and her fellow female cast members relied on help from trainer Gabrielle Mclain.

In a report for SHAPE, Mclain says she used her background in martial arts and nutrition to curate a detail-oriented workout regime for the actress to help transform her body into the female fighting heroine of the film, Nanisca, the general of the Agoji. 

“She needed to gain lots of muscle mass to look strong and powerful,” Mclain told SHAPE. To help achieve this goal, Mclain had Davis undergo a DNA health analysis, which provides information about a person’s genetic dispositions. 

Surprisingly, the analysis revealed that Davis was at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, an important finding that Mclain used to tailor the actress’s diet, finding it more beneficial for her to eat smaller portions more often. 

“Eating every three hours helped her [have] more energy, maintain and increase lean muscle mass, and [reduce] body fat storage,” the trainer told the outlet, explaining how she didn’t cut the actress’s carbs too low so she would still have the fuel she needed to train and film.

Mclain told the outlet that Davis’s diet incorporated complex carbs including sweet potatoes, quinoa, and brown rice, protein, such as lean beef, chicken, fish, and eggs, and healthy fats from avocados, olive oil, meat, eggs, and fish. In addition, Davis drank a gallon of water every day to boost her energy and had two protein- or carb-based snacks between meals each day.

Mclain incorporated explosive weight training and strength training into Davis’s fitness routine after the DNA analysis showed the actress has more fast-twitch muscle fibers than slow-twitch fibers. For a rundown of her fitness schedule, Davis trained a minimum of five hours a day for the three months of pre-production, including an hour of running, two of martial arts, and two of strength training. 

“I push her and she pushes me. She is always ready to work hard, and that challenges me to stay on my toes and always come up with a good workout plan,” says Mclain to the publication, sharing that when Davis is lacking motivation, they train together. “It’s always more fun if you have a partner to suffer with through the workout. But all jokes aside, Viola is a very disciplined person, and she knows what is required to get the results to transform into a warrior.”

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