Viola Davis has defended her portrayal of Michelle Obama in Showtime’s “The First Lady,” admitting that “not everything is going to be an award-worthy performance.”
Davis spoke openly about her role as the former First Lady in an interview with BBC News to promote her new memoir, “Finding Me,” which attracted criticism from audiences and critics for Davis’ portrayal of Obama’s facial expressions and pursed lips.
Davis said it was “incredibly hurtful when people say negative things about your work.”
“How do you move on from the hurt, from failure?” she said. “But you have to. Not everything is going to be an awards-worthy performance.”
Davis also told the BBC: “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 continued. “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. But 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.”
As per ETonline, Davis had the most difficult job of the three leads in Susanne Bier’s series, as Michelle Pfeiffer and Gillian Anderson were both portraying White House matriarchs from decades ago. Betty Ford, who served as First Lady from 1974 to 1977 and died in 2005, was played by Pfeiffer, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who served as First Lady from 1933 to 1945 and died in 1962, was played by Anderson.
Davis, who hasn’t seen Obama in person, said that portraying a globally famous modern personality like Obama was “almost possible”: “Either you’re doing too much, or not enough,” she said.
The actor was nominated for roles in “Doubt,” “The Help,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and won the best-supporting actress Oscar in 2017 for her work in Denzel Washington’s “Fences.” Davis is a two-time Tony Award winner for “King Hedley II” and “Fences,” the play upon which Washington’s movie was based. She received an Emmy for “How to Get Away With Murder” in 2015.