Viola Davis says she’s tired of being offered roles that she describes as “downtrodden” or “mammy-ish.”
In an interview with The New York Times Magazine, the How to Get Away with Murder star says there simply aren’t enough meaty roles being offered to Black women in Hollywood — and, she adds, those given to Halle Berry and her Shondaland Counter, Scandal‘s Kerry Washington, don’t count.
“I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this … a woman of color, of a certain age and a certain hue,” Davis, 49, tells the Times. “And you can’t even mention Halle Berry or Kerry Washington [who have much lighter skin].”
Davis top-lines ABC’s Murder as Annalise Keating, a lawyer and law professor whose students become involved with an actual murder investigation on their college campus. She also has a rather provocative sex scene in the pilot episode. “It’s what I’ve had my eye on for so long,” she said. “It’s time for people to see us, people of color, for what we really are: complicated.”
Davis’ previous film credits include Doubt and The Help, both of which earned her Oscar nominations.
“Even when I get the fried-chicken special of the day, I have to dig into it like it’s filet mignon,” she says. “I always got the phone call that said: ‘I have a great project for you.’ … Then I get the script, and I have a role that lasts for a page or two.”
She adds: “I have been given a lot of roles that are downtrodden, mammy-ish. A lot of lawyers or doctors who have names but absolutely no lives. You’re going to get your three or four scenes, you’re not going to be able to show what you can do. You’re going to get your little bitty paycheck, and then you’re going to be hungry for your next role, which is going to be absolutely the same. That’s the truth.”