Viola Davis has said she feels like she “betrayed” herself by starring in The Help.
The actress reiterated thoughts first discussed in 2018 in The New York Times, about regretting taking the role as a maid in Tate Taylor’s period drama, which focuses on a white woman who develops a friendship with two Black maids.
“Not a lot of narratives are also invested in our humanity,” Davis said in a new interview with Vanity Fair. “They’re invested in the idea of what it means to be Black, but…it’s catering to the white audience.
“The white audience at the most can sit and get an academic lesson into how we are. Then they leave the movie theater and they talk about what it meant. They’re not moved by who we were.”
She continued: “There’s no one who’s not entertained by The Help. But there’s a part of me that feels like I betrayed myself, and my people, because I was in a movie that wasn’t ready to [tell the whole truth],” adding that the film was “created in the filter and the cesspool of systemic racism.”
On why she took the role as Aibileen Clark, one of the two maids alongside Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, Viola Davis said, “I was that journeyman actor, trying to get in.”
She added that in Hollywood “there’s not enough opportunities out there to bring that unknown, faceless Black actress to the ranks of the known. To pop her!”
Davis cites “fabulous white actresses including Emma Stone, Reese Witherspoon, and Kristen Stewart, saying they have had “a wonderful role for each stage of their lives, that brought them to the stage they are now. We can’t say that for many actors of color.”