Veteran actress Viola Davis publicly recalled a time a director referred to her by his maid’s name in a recent conversation during the Variety and Kering Women In Motion conversation at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.
Speaking about Black women and the long-standing diversity issue in Hollywood, Davis shared the particular microaggression she experienced from an unnamed director and how it impacted her award-winning career.
“I had a director who did that to me. He said, ‘Louise!’ I knew him for 10 years and he called me Louise and I find out that it’s because his maid’s name is Louise,” Davis said, according to Variety. “I was maybe around 30 at the time, so it was a while ago. But what you have to realize is that those micro-aggressions happen all the time.”
Davis, who is to receive the 2022 Cannes Film Festival Women In Motion Award, also explained that her performance as Annalise Keating in the acclaimed ABC series How To Get Away With Murder did not have a direct effect on creating more acting opportunities for dark skinned women in leading roles.
“I know that when I left ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ that I don’t see a lot of dark skin women in lead roles on TV and not even in streaming services,” Davis said. “And that ties into ideology and ethos and mentality, and that’s speaking in the abstract. Why aren’t you hiring a dark skin woman when she walks in the room and you say she blows you away? Create space and storytelling for her so when she thrives she’s not thriving despite of her circumstance but thriving because of her circumstance.”
Adding: “If I wanted to play a mother whose family lives in a low-income neighborhood and my son was a gang member who died in a drive by shooting, I could get that made.”
“If I played a woman who was looking to recreate herself by flying to Nice and sleeping with five men at the age of 56 — looking like me, I’m going to have a hard time pushing that one, even as Viola Davis.”
Currently holding the title as the most nominated Black actress in history at the Academy Awards, Davis also has a Primetime Emmy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards, an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, three Critics’ Choice Movie Award.
Watch Viola Davis’ full conversation for the Kering Women in Motion Talk below: