Viola Davis responds to criticism over Michelle Obama portrayal

The Oscar-winning actress said that "critics absolutely serve no purpose" after getting negative feedback in her role in the Showtime series, 'The First Lady.'

After being slammed for her portrayal of Michelle Obama in the Showtime series, The First Lady, Viola Davis is clapping back.

During an interview with BBC News, Davis addressed the critics giving her performance as Obama negative reviews. Since the episode premiered, people have taken to social media to ridicule Davis’ acting, particularly her interpretation of Obama’s facial expressions.

Davis, who is one Grammy short of the coveted EGOT distinction, says that many people cross the line between critique and cruelty.

CinemaCon 2022
Viola Davis receives the Cinemacon Trailblazer of the Year during CinemaCon 2022 at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)

“Critics absolutely serve no purpose. And I’m not saying that to be nasty either,” Davis said to BBC News. “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.”

By portraying someone as famous as Obama, Davis recognized the task would be an uphill climb. “Either you’re doing too much or not enough,” she said. Regardless of the challenge and some of the backlash, Davis says that she feels like it’s her “job as a leader to make bold choices. Win or fail it is my duty to do that.”

Showtime’s The First Lady is a drama series that concurrently follows the narrative of three former First Ladies: Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, played by Emmy-winner Gillian Anderson, and Betty Ford, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. The show illustrates the personal and political lives of the three women and how they affected leadership in the White House.

Davis’ role in The First Lady comes as her first memoir, Finding Me, is being released Tuesday. The book takes a very candid look at the life of the award-winning actress, chronicling her experiences with poverty and physical and sexual abuse in her youth. Davis explained how important it was to reveal those aspects of her life, even at the risk of alienating people close to her.

“For me, I had to speak my truth,” she said to the outlet. “They don’t tell you that in speaking your truth it’s going to cost you something. It’s going probably cost you maybe even the separation of your family or being misunderstood. But there’s no other way to live.”

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