Not that there’s anything wrong with portraying a character whose job it is to serve others, but after The Help, Viola Davis won’t be playing a maid again.
While she received critical acclaim for her role as Aibileen Clark, which earned her an Oscar nomination, Viola would prefer to show African Americans in a different light. To put it bluntly, she’s "tired" of playing the maid.
“It’s a fabulous story,” she told CNN in reference to The Help. “We were personalized and all of those things, but I think that people need to see an African American in the 21st century integrated in the life of this town and family who’s not in servitude.”
In her upcoming film, Beautiful Creatures, Viola plays a librarian, named Amma. There is a maid in the book from which the movie is adapted, but big-screen Amma is a mix of two characters from the novel.
According to Viola, the change was a wise choice.
“I respect the book and I think the book is wonderful, but this is 2013, and I think that when Black people are woven into the lives of characters in 2013, then I think they play other roles than maids,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.
Viola obviously isn’t the only Black woman to play a maid, nor is she the first the Academy recognized for talking on such a role.
Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to be honored with an Oscar, portrayed a maid in Gone With the Wind. That role spawned controversy, just as Viola’s and Octavia Spencer’s roles in The Help.
As for her future roles, Viola explained what type of characters fans will see her playing.
“I look at depth of character,” she told THR. “I look at whether or not I absolutely buy them as a human being … I always say this, you can do a lot of things that are interesting, a lot of gimmicks … but at the end of the day, if you don’t buy that person as a human being, you don’t recognize any kind of humanity in that character, then the actor isn’t doing their job.”
If you haven’t seen the trailer for Beautiful Creatures, watch it below.
Tichina Arnold, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Rutina Wesley and more discuss Black Hollywood.
—Tracy L. Scott
Do you agree with Viola’s choice to avoid servitude roles, or should she be happy with any role that comes her way? Leave your comments below.