Award-winning actress Viola Davis has received some pointed online criticism of her portrayal of Michelle Obama in Showtime’s anthology series The First Lady. Now the Fences star is offering her opinion of critics and how the internet’s reception of her performance has affected her.
While promoting her new memoir Finding Me with BBC News, Viola had a very human response to the reactions saying it’s “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work.” Much of the criticism has revolved around her expressions and movements, specifically the way she purses her lips.
The How to Get Away with Murder Emmy-winner admits that criticism is an “occupational hazard.”
“How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?” she asked. “But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.” She went on to give a rather bold opinion, saying, “Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either.”
“They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know,” she said. “Somehow that you’re living a life that you’re surrounded by people who lie to you and ‘I’m going to be the person that leans in and tells you the truth.’ So it gives them an opportunity to be cruel to you.”
As someone whose job it is to watch and review TV and movies, I can’t say I’m thrilled about her assessment. However, I also recognize she was under an immense amount of pressure with this role and don’t take her response to the internet personally. Something tells me others won’t be so understanding and this quote will become a thing.
The series co-stars Gillian Anderson as Eleanor Roosevelt and Michelle Pfeiffer as Betty Ford, both famous, popular figures who also happen to be deceased and not regularly in the public eye. The Tony-winner admits portraying someone as beloved as our Forever First Lady was “almost impossible.” “Either you’re doing too much or not enough,” she said.
As for what Mrs. Obama herself thinks Davis said, “I don’t have any personal contact with Michelle Obama.”
The First Lady airs Sundays at 9/8c on Showtime.