The Oscar-winning actress stars as the former first lady in the Showtime anthology series “First Lady.” Davis, who is typically celebrated for her work, has seen the comments slamming the exaggerated pursing of her lips to mimic Obama’s mouth, and the thin, high-arched brows Obama donned when the country first met her over a decade ago.
The words of disapproval have been “incredibly hurtful,” but Davis says it’s par for the course when taking on the challenge of portraying someone as beloved as Obama. “Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance…Either you’re doing too much or not enough,” she told BBC. In fact, the “How to Get Away With Murder” actress isn’t missing a beat as she makes her rounds promoting the series.
“Ultimately I feel like it is my job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that.” Critics who have showered online forums and social media have ripped Davis’ performance to shreds — based purely on the “distracting” facial expressions — calling it a “mockery,” a role that “might set her back a few years,” and even an intentional slight against Obama that was orchestrated by those behind the camera.
But Davis is unmoved by the criticism or those who believe they are informing her of a misstep. “Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either.”
She continued, “They always feel like they’re telling you something that you don’t know. 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.”
Fans and critics still have plenty to say about the portrayal, but since the first episode of the series premiered on April 17, the acknowledgment of Davis’ “Everyone has an opinion, but very few can do what she does, so then there’s that,” wrote one person online.
“She’s a great actress no doubt, but I just think they could’ve gotten somebody else IMO.”
“All jokes aside Viola Davis is THAT GIRL. She’s not always gonna get it right, but don’t EVER play my girl’s acting skills,” another wrote.