In the latest iteration of Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Viola Davis and Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence discuss their respective careers and role as action stars.
For Davis—who recently starred in the box office hit The Woman King, alongside Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Shelia Atim and John Boyega this past summer—she divulges that despite the film’s success and star power, she initially felt that it was “never going to happen” because it had never been done before.
“What I have going for me is I’m a Black actress. And I understand how people perceive that,” Davis explained. “I don’t see it as a hindrance. But when have I ever seen anything like Woman King? Not just with me in it, but with anyone who looks like me in it? What studio is going to put money behind it? How are they going to be convinced that Black women can lead a global box office? So, yeah, I said, ‘That’s not going to happen, because you don’t see it.’”
Later in the interview, the Academy Award-winning actress reflected on the training she received during her time at Julliard, sharing how it was more so “Eurocentric” training and all about “technical proficiency” than it was connecting to the audience through “a human experience.”
“With Juilliard, it was just about technical proficiency. It was about giving you all the building blocks to transform for classical work. The only problem with that is, first of all, I can safely say for you and for myself, no one wants to see a play or a movie and look at technical proficiency; you want a human experience. You want to feel less alone. They don’t get at that,” Davis said.
She continued: “When you’re rehearsing at Juilliard, they have a teacher with a pencil who follows you through the rehearsal and puts the pencil in your mouth to see where your tongue is positioned. And so when it gets like that, and you leave yourself and your soul behind, you’re not an artist. And on top of that, it’s Eurocentric training. So when you’re studying all those classics, it’s clear what all of those characters look like—and that’s not me. So then what am I supposed to do with me? What am I supposed to do with my Blackness? What am I supposed to do with my deep voice and my wide nose?”
To read the full interview, head to variety.com. The Woman King is available to watch in theaters now and streaming on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.